In Haiti Pumpkin Soup is traditionally eaten to celebrate the New Year. It is usually made with beef, but it is just as good made with chicken meat.
In much Caribbean cooking, meat is usually ‘washed’ in lime juice before cooking takes place, including marinating. This ‘washing’ gives extra taste but more importantly kills any bacteria on the surface of the meat. Smart when you live in a hot climate.
If you haven’t used them before, this recipe will introduce you to Habanero peppers. Habanero peppers are lethally hot. Take care not to use too much. A tiny amount of cut habanero goes a very long way. Why use them? They have an incredible flavor as well as heat. The pierced whole habanero used at the end of this recipe is a great way to get the flavor without too much spice. Choose a pepper that is perfectly whole and sealed until you prick it. Any more open, and it could make the stew way too spicy.
- 2-pounds skinless chicken thighs
- Juice of 1 lime
- 10 cups waterSalt and pepper to taste
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small cubanelle pepper thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1-2 thin slices habanero, or 1 thinly sliced jalapeno pepper1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 celery stalks, cut into
- 1-inch pieces
- 2-pounds pumpkin
- 10 cabbage leaves quartered
- 2 large carrots cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 medium turnips, washed quartered
- 2 medium potatoes, washed quartered
- 4-6 cloves
- ½ cup spaghetti broken into pieces
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 whole habanero pepper, pricked twice with a toothpick
- Lime wedges, for garnish (optional)
1. Mix the marinade ingredients together. Set aside.
2. Marinate the chicken in the lime juice for 5 minutes or until the meat turns white. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Rub the meat with the marinade and let sit, covered, in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you can leave the meat in the marinade, the better it is.
3. Put the chicken in a large stockpot with 3 cups of water, the quartered onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Over a medium heat, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, wash, peel, and core the squash and cut into 1-inch chunks. In a stockpot cover the squash with cold water, bring to a boil then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and puree the squash in the reserved cooking water.
5. Add the squash puree to the chicken. Bring to a boil again and add the cabbage, carrots, turnips, potatoes and cloves. Cook uncovered until the vegetables are just tender, about 20 minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper.
6. Add the spaghetti and the whole habanero pepper and cook until the pasta is ‘al dente’. Let the soup rest for 5 minutes. Discard the habanero and the cloves and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Enslaved Haitians were not allowed to have this delicious and aromatic pumpkin soup, a favorite of the French who held people in slavery. On Sunday, January 1, 1804, when the enslaved gained their freedom, they celebrated with music and food in the Place d’Armes, in the city of Gonaives. And what better way to celebrate than to eat the very thing they were unable to eat under slavery? Nowadays it doesn’t matter where in the world a Haitian might be on January 1—they will be having the soup of freedom.
Delicious with Pumpkin
Growing up on a farm in Norway on the roughest coastal line, I had never grown or eaten or seen pumpkins, except from when Cinderella´s fairy God mother turned one into a magical chariot for Cinderella to go to the ball at the Castle. I was first introduced to pumpkin after 20 years old when I lived and studied in the USA. And it was only associated with Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving.However, Pumpkin can be used for so much more. And it is not American. It is used all over the world, and has been since ancient times.
Pumpkin — to Bring Good Health
The tradition of eating pumpkin during the moonfestival is followed by people living south of the Yangtze River.
Poor families chose to eat pumpkin during the Mid-Autumn Festival in ancient times, as they couldn’t afford mooncakes. The tradition has been passed down, and eating pumpkin on the Mid-Autumn Festival night is believed to bring people good health.
An interesting legend goes that a very poor family, a couple with their daughter, lived at the foot of South Mountain. The old couples were seriously sick for lack of food and clothes. The daughter found an oval-shaped melon one day when she was working in the fields on the South Mountain. She brought the melon home and cooked to serve to her dying parents. Surprisingly, her sick parents recovered after eating the melon. Because the melon was picked from the South Mountain, so it was named ‘south melon’ (the Chinese name for pumpkin).
Pumpkin soup, The Symbol of Freedom.
Pumpkin soup is served in Haiti on January 1, the anniversary of Haiti’s liberation from France. It is said that the soup was once a delicacy reserved for white masters but forbidden to the slaves who cooked it. January 1st, 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti a free republic. After Independence, Haitians took to eating it to celebrate the world’s first and only successful slave revolution resulting in an independent nation.
What does that have to do with pumpkin soup? Everything!!! All throughout their reign of terror, the French forbade all Haitians from drinking pumpkin soup. It was considered a delicacy far too sophisticated for the palate of slaves. Therefore as a symbol of freedom, all Haitians, no matter where, drink pumpkin soup (Soup Joumou) every January first since 1804.
USA and Ireland
In the United States, pumpkins go hand in hand with the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. An orange fruit harvested in October, this nutritious and versatile plant features flowers, seeds and flesh that are edible and rich in vitamins. Pumpkin is used to make soups, desserts and breads, and many Americans include pumpkin pie in their Thanksgiving meals. Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Back then, however, jack-o’-lanterns were made out of turnips or potatoes; it wasn’t until Irish immigrants arrived in America and discovered the pumpkin that a new Halloween ritual was born.
Pumpkin carving being associated with Halloween comes from a method used by the Celts to ward off evil spirits during Samuin (a festival where many of the traditions of Halloween come from). The Celts would hollow out turnips, then carve faces in them and place candles inside. The turnips were then either placed in the windows, to keep evil spirits from entering a home, or carried around as lanterns. This tradition eventually melded with the North American tradition of carving pumpkins. At this point, the carving of pumpkins, which had been around in North America before Halloween was popularly introduced, became associated almost exclusively with Halloween (around the 19th century).