For two weeks, our friends at the Good Food Awards will be sharing articles, tips, and recipes from some of their judges, friends, and past GFA winners. Each day will feature a different category, from chocolate to charcuterie to cheese. And if you'd like to score some of the goods competing in this year's awards, head to Provisions.
Today: Robb Duncan, the gelato artisan behind Washington DC's Dolcezza, was supposed to write about gelato. Instead, he shared a story of the farmers he works with, the sugar pumpkins they harvest, and why good food is so important in the first place.
I was asked to write a recipe for gelato that incorporated an ingredient from the Good Food Awards, but what I really wanted to write about was a farmer that we work with. Since I was going to write about the neck pumpkin we use to make gelato, I asked our friend and farmer, Zachariah Lester of Tree and Leaf Farm, to tell me what the neck pumpkin means to him. He and his wife, Georgia O’Neal, own and operate a farm in Unionville, VA, right down the road from the ghost-filled forests of the Wilderness Battlefield.
After a long day in the fields, Zach climbed a tree and launched into this poetry, this verse, this soliloquy. After listening to him, my perspective on what we are doing by making gelato with these ingredients changed forever. Our gelato has everything to do with the bees, the dirt, the seeds, the hands, and an utmost reverence to growing food. Without these ingredients, making gelato would be a waste of time. So we try to get out of the way and let these mad men and women shine through our gelato, and we really dig doing this, all of us in the family of Dolcezza.
I just want you to sit back and have a listen to this couple-minute-long epiphany that Zach had, because this is the perspective on the neck pumpkin that I want you to take away from this article. We make neck pumpkin gelato with a hazelnut crunch bar praline, and it is totally mind-blowing in every sense of the word: the balance, the subtlety, the texture, the food.
Here's how we do it: We slice the neck pumpkins into 2” rounds, rub them with a freshly ground mix of local ginger, Vietnamese cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and muscovado sugar, and roast them at 425° F until their rich and caramelized meat oozes and sticks to the sheet pans. We heat up our milk and cream and mix the pumpkin purée together. Then, after chilling the mix, we spin it in our fancy Italian machines and as the pumpkin gelato falls from the batch freezer, we mix in the slightly melted hazelnut crunch bar throughout. The result is meaty, delicate, nourishing, sublime, warming, and freaking delicious, if we do say so ourselves.
So, have a listen to a little story about the neck pumpkin growing in the fields of Virginia.
Top photo courtesy of the Good Food Awards; bottom photo by Sarah Shatz