By Ryan McKay
Pumpkins are the epitome of fall and its favorite holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Scary faces and pumpkin pies are not the only things that they’re good for though. Like a good firefighter who is great at advancing a hose, don’t forget that he can force a door, stick an IV, or clean the bay floor. Pumpkins are so much more than sweet; they can be savory and comforting.
Now, I admit that soup sounds as exciting as, well, cleaning the bay floor. But rest easy, friends, this is not your average vegetable soup. The infusion of Chinese Five Spice (cinnamon, anise, cloves, ginger, and Szechuan pepper), coconut cream, and apple cider vinegar ensures a savory comfort food vs. pumpkin pie in a bowl. Enjoy making it early between incidents, and warm it up when ready for dinner; it doesn’t get easier than that. Served as a side (think Thanksgiving dinner, folks!) or as a pairing with sandwiches for a meal, enjoy this quick and healthy soup to help warm up the crew on a cold fall day.
A few after-the-fire critiques: Ensure that you get pumpkin puree and NOT pumpkin pie filling. Fell free to roast pumpkins in lieu of canned pumpkins if you have the time and you want to entertain your rookies with separating seeds from gourd. As the pumpkin is from the can, the extra step of reducing on the stovetop is worth the effort. Making it early helps the soup come together throughout the day, and it’s even better the next shift. Indulge!
Pumpkin Puree (32 ounces)
Veggie Stock (32 ounces)
Carrot (1 cup shredded)
Coconut Cream (½ cup)
Garlic (clove minced)
Butter (2 Tbs.)
Chinese Five Spice (1 tsp.)
Apple Cider Vinegar (1 ½ Tbsp.)
Honey (1 Tbsp.)
Pepper and Salt
Sour Cream or Crema
Dutch Oven or Large Heavy Duty Pot
Blender (Immersion if available)
- Place Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add butter and allow it to slightly brown, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add onion, carrots, and Chinese Five Spice and cook until onions are translucent (about 5-8 minutes).
- Lower heat to medium and add pumpkin and cook to reduce water content (about 10 minutes). You’ll need to stir on occasion so don’t go anywhere as you’re looking to slightly reduce (remember, we’re eliminating moisture and strengthening flavor) and deepen the pumpkin color.
- Add stock, then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and return soup to a simmer.
- Add cream and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Reduce to low and allow the flavors to meld together for a minimum of 20 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the soup to a blender (it’s hot, so take care or use an immersion blender if on hand; they’re awesome) and blend till you achieve a smooth consistency.
- Add pepper and salt to taste.
- Consider serving with sour cream or crema, chives, and drops of hot sauce on top. Enjoy.
Stay low, stay safe, and stay hungry!
Ryan McKay is a 12-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.