How to Deal with a Whole Pumpkin
Ideally, this post would have been written right after Halloween, when everyone had their carved pumpkins ready to deal with- but American Thanksgiving seems like good timing, too! When you've taken down your cornucopia's and other seasonal decorating, this is what you can do with your pumpkins and other squash. Pumpkin has a plethora of good-for-you reasons to eat it. Here is a great list!
The first (and easiest!) thing to do with your raw pumpkins is to peel the skin off of it (I just used a paring knife), and dice it into small chunks or strips. Freeze these as is to use in cooked entrees such as soups, stews, and casseroles.
And pumpkin seeds- don't forget about those. Possibly the best recipe I've ever found is unfortunately now a dead link. He used a generously salted pot of water to soften the seeds before roasting them. I don't remember how long to boil them for, but I'd say 10-15 minutes before draining and tossing in oil and roasting. The author uses spices other than salt and pepper, but because I have kids with- shall we say- "special" taste buds, I generally stick with plain salted seeds. I use about half the salt he recommends in the boiling water because I found the original amount too salty. They taste and smell a little bit like popcorn, and it's a terrific snack to offer after school with some fresh fruit, or a really tasty alternative to chips when you're watching a movie with your family.
To puree up your pumpkin, you first need to cook it until it's very soft. I cut my pumpkin into pieces because it's easier to deal with that way after it's cooked. The best way I have found over the years is to slow roast it in the oven on a relatively low temperature (300*F-325*F) for a few hours. As it's roasting, it will collapse in on itself, parts may brown, but don't worry about it. I roast it on baking sheets covered with foil, and will take them out a couple of times to flip the pieces over to ensure even cooking.
Once it's removed from the oven, it will need to cool significantly before you can handle it. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh off the peel, and toss it into your blender. Depending on your blender, you may need to add a little water to get enough moisture for your blender to puree- and then puree in small batches. It should be a really creamy consistency, not too wet, similar to pureed banana. You can use this puree in soup bases and baking- loaves and muffins. I've used it interchangeably with banana. My second son has been begging me to bake, so I will do some over the next couple of months and post a few photos and recipes for you. A couple of things I've made in the past: pumpkin walnut loaf, pumpkin pie muffins, and pumpkin cranberry muffins.
I hope this has helped give you some practical suggestions on preparing, storing, and using fresh pumpkin. It's a great way to save money and eat well, and to cut down on food waste!
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