How to pick the best pumpkins for eating
October 17, 2011 4:36PM
Halloween is just around the corner.
Updated: November 20, 2011 8:30AM
The most popular use of pumpkins is for decoration as jack-o-lanterns. When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, the best selection is a “pie pumpkin” or “sweet pumpkin.” These are smaller than the large jack-o-lantern pumpkins and the flesh is sweeter and less watery. However, you can substitute the jack-o-lantern variety with fairly good results.
Look for a pumpkin with 1 to 2 inches of stem left. If the stem is cut down too low the pumpkin will decay quickly or may be decaying at the time of purchase. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. It should be heavy, shape is unimportant. A lopsided pumpkin is not necessarily a bad pumpkin. Figure one pound of raw, untrimmed pumpkin for each cup finished pumpkin puree.
Cooking the pumpkin
Boiling/steaming method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water.
Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup. Follow the steps outlined below in reparing the puree.
Oven method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until fork tender. Then follow the procedure outlined below.
Microwave method: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender. Continue as outlined below.
Preparing the puree
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.
Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into 1-cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags.
Label, date and freeze at 0 degrees for up to one year.
Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin Nut Bars
Yield: about 30 bars
1 cup cooked pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted)
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
2 cups oats
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped salted peanuts, pecans, or almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites slightly; add pumpkin and melted butter or margarine beat until smooth.
In another bowl combine oats, brown sugar, coconut, wheat germ and nuts.
Fold oat mixture into pumpkin mixture to form stiff dough.
Press dough into a lightly greased 151/2-by-101/2-inch jelly roll pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. While still warm, cut into 2-by-3-inch bars. Serve warm or cool completely.