Real Food for Real Life

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins

Halloween is past and some of our collection of pumpkins needed to be used or shortly tossed, so I decided to spend some time roasting both the flesh and seeds for later use. I used to cook pumpkin for freezing by cubing it and then cooking in boiling water. This however proved to be unsatisfactory. not only did boiling add unnecessary moisture to the end product, it also washed away much of the nutritional goodness contained within those pretty orange skins. For several years now I have been roasting them instead; this not only does away with the added moisture, but it concentrates and intensifies the pumpkin flavor, never a bad thing. I was surprised, however, when I cut open the white pumpkin and was greeted not by a happy orange interior, but a bone white one. Chris had asked when we got it if it was white inside too, and I had told him no, that all pumpkins are orange inside (as are, I thought, all the winter squashes). When Chris got home from school I showed him that mom had been wrong and that not all pumpkins are orange.

Roasted Pumpkin (and Seeds)

Wash and dry your pumpkins; cut in half as illustrated above, and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Don't worry about getting every bit of pulp, but do remove all the seeds. Reserve the seeds in a colander. Place the pumpkins, cut side down, onto foil lined baking sheets and place in a 350 degree oven. Roast until you can push the flesh in easily with your finger. Different size pumpkins will take different amounts of time, so be sure to check them regularly. When cooked, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan until cool enough to handle. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, scrapping the skin to get it all, then dispose of the skin, as well as the foil and any collected liquid. Liquid will start to pool around the flesh in the bowl; if you intend to use the pumpkin for pies, spoon it off, for any other uses it is fine to leave it. Puree the pumpkin with an immersion blender until it is smooth like baby food. It is now ready to use for recipes, or package into freezer bags or containers. I find that 2 cup quantities are the most useful size for the freezer. I packaged the white and orange pumpkin separately. Chris wants me to make a white pumpkin pie; I'll have to keep you posted on how that turns out.

Now for those reserved seeds..Roasted pumpkin seeds make a tasty, salty snack and are so easy to make it is a shame to waste the seeds. Be aware though, these still retain the hull, not like the Mexican pepitas that are hulled. Pick the seeds from the larger pieces of pulp; dispose of the pulp. Then, under a thin stream of tap water, rub the seeds together between your hands and through your fingers, This will loosen the remaining pulp so that you can easily pick it out. Give the seeds a final rinse - a few pulp strands left behind will not hurt anything -and spread on a parer towel lined plate to dry overnight. The next day turn the seeds into a bowl and add a small amount of olive (or canola) oil, just enough to lightly coat the seeds when you stir them. Spread onto an ungreased baking sheet and put into a 250 degree oven. Bake until the seeds have turned a golden color, stirring on the pan occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven, salt while still warm, and let cool on the pan. Once cool, store in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for several months- if they last that long (they can be quite addictive).

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