Monday, September 28, 2015

Before You Buy That Pumpkin

First, if you can, go to a farmer and buy a pumpkin or two for fall decorations and holiday pies and dishes. They're a lot cheaper to buy from a "pumpkin patch" than from the grocery store.

When you buy, look for brightly colored pumpkins because they will taste better and be more nutritious. Check to be sure there are no cuts or deep scars and look for the pumpkins that have at least an inch of stem where they have been cut. The longer the stem, the better it will keep. Pass by the pumpkins without stems unless you plan to cook them right away.

I am assuming you will cook the pumpkin and not waste it. Even jack o'lantern pumpkins can be salvaged for food. You can look for pie pumpkins, but field pumpkins make very good pumpkin pies if they are done right.

If you are planning on keeping the pumpkin indoors, you'll need to cure it first by leaving it outside for about a week, unless it's freezing weather. In that case, keep it cool until you can take it outside.

If you plan on displaying the pumpkin out doors, be sure to protect it if a heavy frost is predicted, but pumpkins can handle light frosts with no problem if they're cured properly.

When you cut into the pumpkin, take out the seeds, of course, and rinse them in a colander. Remove the strings and put them in a bowl of salted water to soak overnight. The next morning, drain them and put them in a shallow layer on a cookie sheet and roast them at 300 degrees for two to three hours, stirring now and then. You can tell when they're done by tasting one. If you have any left to store, put them in an airtight container.

Now make your jack o'lantern or arrange your display and enjoy.

Pumpkins will last deep into winter if they're stored in a cool place with plenty of air circulation, but you might want to work yours up all at one time and make pumpkin pie or soup or bread or any of the other delicious pumpkin dishes.

The easiest way to do this is to take the seeds out and clean the stringy part out of the pumpkin, put the "lid" back on and put it in the oven. Bake it at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size. When it's done, let it cool, then peel or pull the rind off of the flesh. You can process the flesh in food processor or blender or mash it up by hand.

You'll find that even a small pumpkin may yield more than you can reasonably use right away, so freeze the rest in one cup portions for future recipes. When you thaw it, you might have to drain off some liquid, but don't unless it's necessary for the recipe. Use it just like canned pumpkin in any recipe, but it's much cheaper and much better!

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