Saturday, October 11, 2008

Preparing Fresh Pumpkin for Baking

The other day, we had 12 pumpkins in the house. 4 were for carving/painting from the pumpkin patch, 8 were pumpkin pie pumpkins - because when I saw "2 for $3" I thought "OH hey! Now that seems like a deal... lets buy 500!"

So anyway. Since first baking with fresh pumpkin last year, I'm now a total advocate. It's cheaper, and really not difficult - also, for a little extra work you get pumpkin seeds out of the deal as well!

With my bounty of squash, I made Pumpkin Zucchini Bread. This is a *most excellent* recipe, not only was it a huge hit at work, but we've all been gobbling it up at home too!

Making Pumpkin Puree

Preparing pumpkin mash is easy (time consuming, but easy). Buy yourself some pumpkin pie pumpkins - yes, this is a specific kind, and not the huge ones they sell for carving. They might be sold as "sweet pumpkins" as well. These little guys will yield around 1 1/2 cup pumpkin mush each, so purchase accordingly. Wash the pumpkin, get a big knife and split it in half - if you cut everything but the stem, you can pull the sides apart and it'll pop in half pretty easily.

Next, get a sharp edged spoon and scoop out all the mush. If you want to save the seeds - do yourself a favor and try to scoop it all out such that it stays in a few big lumps - that means scraping into the walls of the pumpkins just a bit. This way separating the seeds from the goop will be a little easier.

Now, turn the oven on 350, and get a pan with edges (not a cookie sheet) and lay down a sheet of tin foil. Pour in about an inch of water, and place the pumpkin halves each cut side down. Stick them in the oven and let them cook until they give easily when touched - this is anywhere from 30 minus to an hour.

If your house starts to smell like Halloween (that wonderful cooking/burning pumpkin smell - I really do love it) check and make sure that the water hasn't all evaporated out of the pan, and replace if necessary - it keeps the pumpkin from drying out.

Now that your pumpkins are cooked, take out of the even and turn over to let the steam escape - let them cool. Now you need to remove the flesh from the skin. Either scrape it all out with a spoon, or, if cooked enough, you might be able to just peel the skin away. At this point, all you need to do is puree the pumpkin flesh with an immersion blender, stand blender, or food processor.

You can use it right away, or do like I did with what turned out to be 11 cups of pumpkin, and scoop 1/2 cups of it into a muffin tin and freeze.

Once solid, stick those pumpkin puree cubes in a zip lock bag and you have it for later!

I've read (but so far not experienced) that you really need to strain the puree well, get the extra liquid out, since some recipes don't do well with it - so keep that in mind. I've made pies and breads without bothering with the straining, and been fine.

Saving the Seeds

If you'd like to salvage the seeds from your pumpkins (this is good for while the pumpkins are cooking) get a bowl, a strainer and a cookie sheet, and put the pumpkin guts in the bowl, in the sink. If you scraped so that you have a few large lumps of guts, pick up a lump and just kinda squeeze the seeds out, throw away the guts. Once you've separated all the pumpkin from the seeds, fill the bowl with water, and stir the seeds up a bit to rinse and get the extra pumpkin goo off of them. Strain. Pour the seeds evenly over the cookie sheet. At this point you can either cook them straight away or just let them dry and cook later.

I'll post later my recipe for candied pumpkin seeds!


Kristijoy said...

I'm totally about to do that myself. I might can some this year. I have at least five winter squash of varying sorts growing in the yard right now and bought a pie pumpkin to make a gluten free pumpkin spice cake on Sunday. I be roasting pumpkin tonight! and I roasted a butternut squash from the CSA box for curried squash soup last week if you want a good soup recipe let me know.
Miss you!

Sue said...

What a great post about pumpkins! I have made pumpkin spice cake and pumpkin bread. Love pumpkins! I have to say I have never looked beyohd Libby's!

Ammy Lea said...

Kristi - Yes! I would love your recipe for soup, I have never had pumpkin soup but have been craving it.. weird.

Also, I have a coworker allergic to .. everything.. and have been wanting to try something gluten free.. any chance I can steal that cake recipe too?

Mom - Why thank you. While the taste to me is the same, it adds a bit more pride not to use Libby's - although I still use the Libby's pie recipe religiously!

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