Pumpkins: More Than Just Carving

After years of wondering where that can of pumpkin pie filling came from, I finally figured it out- real pumpkins! I know, it’s a strange concept, but it’s true! I had been wondering all September why someone would grow pumpkins and not eat them, and just needed to know what they tasted like. Obviously, the raw pumpkin smell that’s released while carving, bringing you back to childhood nights of Halloween, is nothing like that taste of pumpkin pie. So what the heck does it taste like?! My friends, I have seen the way of the pumpkin and am here to share my discovery of the overpowering sweet that is roasted pumpkin flesh.

This pumpkin is not your typical carving pumpkin. It’s much smaller, and called either a pie pumpkin or a sugar pumpkin. Let me tell you what, it’s delicious. Imagine a sugar coated piece of the yummiest squash and you’ll have the general taste of this little jewel. So I guess if you don’t like squash, you probably wont like pumpkin, but if you do, then you’ll probably enjoy it.

This was the first time I’ve done this, and after an hour of looking up ways to cook it, there are a few things I’ve learned and want to pass on. Actually, you only need one piece of advice- be ready to get physical and have a good set of knives nearby because it is a hastle and a half to get a pumpkin prepped to roast! First you have to manage to saw off the top and bottom, then attack it with a vegetable peeler to get all the tough skin off, then you need to hack it in half, then half again, then seed, and finally shop it up into small pieces. It would be a lie for me not to tell you that I wasn’t tired and a little sweaty at the end. But, all the work IS worth it! I also have not tried boiling or steaming which may prove to be a lot easier. Just yesterday, I was talking with my boss’ wife and she said she might consider working it like she does her big acorn squashes. She takes it outside with a ax she cleaned off, then wham! One swift chop and the thing is open. Take it inside, seed it, then throw the halves in a pot of boiling water. After tender enough to eat, let it cool, then peel the skins off and cut it up. Sounds a lot easier, but I don’t know if you would end up with the same sweet taste or if you’d lose some of it from boiling. It’s worth a try I’m sure.

So here you got the top and bottom hacked off and the skin peeled off. I figured peeling it whole like this would be easier than peeling once quartered because you could get a better grip on it. I’d have to say I was probably right.

Now it’s quartered. The brunt of the work is done. Take a second to enjoy seeding the stringy slimy flesh from the pumpkin. Put the pile of seeds and guts to the side and come back to them later. You’re almost done, just need to cut the quarters smaller and into small inch or so chunks. Throw them all in a bowl.

There! The hard part is done! Now comes the part that I’m not entirely sure on. Okay, so I tossed with a little drizzle of olive oil to help them roast and spread them out on two cookie sheets.

Actually, I’m quite sure about that part. The part I’m not is roasting time. Here’s my problem, the source I was using was wrong on the temperature. I was using instructions that came from Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food” magazine and it said roast for 30-35 minutes (until tender) at 450 degrees. Well, after ten minutes at that temperature, smoke started pouring out of the oven vents. I opened it up to see what was up and realized that the bottoms had burned to the bottom of the pan. Needless to say, after all that hard work just to get them to the oven, I was NOT happy. I pulled out the pans to scrape the pumpkin up and toss it around a bit, cursed a lot, and cranked the oven down a lot lower to finish roasting. I can’t imagine what 35 minutes at 450 degrees would have done! So, I would try a much lower temperature, say, 300 degrees or so, and be willing to toss the pieces around every so often, checking them so they are not burning and to see when they are tender. It may take a little longer, but at least you will not scorch your pumpkin! They were salvageable, I even pulled some of the scorched flesh off before serving, and it still tasted great! So at least it wasn’t a disaster. If anyone does end up roasting a pumpkin and figures out the magic temperature and time, please share here!

As an economical side note, one small pumpkin like this cost me $2 at our local orchard, cooked up it served my husband and I, and then was able to freeze and package the rest of it up in ready serving sizes, and get two more side servings out of it. Not a bad $2 spent for all the times we will get to enjoy it!

Remember I said to deal with the pulp later? Well, while your pumpkin is in the over, start pulling out the seeds and putting those aside for baking later- why waste something so delicious? Once all the seeds are separated, throw out the pulp and wash your seeds to remove any little bits of remaining pumpkin. Spread them out on a clean kitchen towel overnight and bake the next day. *Warning* Do NOT let the seeds dry on a paper towel! I repeat, NO paper towels! Why? Because I learned the hard way last year when the next morning, all the seeds were stuck to the paper towels and we ended up eating more paper towel than seeds! Cloth towel only! So when they stick, you’ll have no problem sloughing them off the cloth and you wont have any papery residue.

The next night, when you are ready to roast, throw all the seeds in a small bowl, drizzle just a touch of olive oil, toss with your hands to make sure they are good and coated, then add some salt (or try some other spice I suppose), toss again, then spread out on a cookie sheet and put into a preheated oven at 250 degrees. Bake for one hour, going in to toss every 15 or 20 minutes. After an hour, pull them out, let them cool, then enjoy! This method promises no chewy or overcooked seeds, just perfectly crunchy every time.

So there you have it, pumpkins are edible and actually delicious! Feel free to leave your experiences, cooking methods, and recipes here. Ha, and be careful who you tell you’re eating pumpkin to, because as I found out, no matter how much you hype it up, some people will always think you’re a poor old foolish country bumpkin to eat a pumpkin! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Pumpkins: More Than Just Carving

  1. Great info! I read that same everyday food magazine. I’ve been thinking about actually cooking with real pumpkin this year. You make it look easy.

  2. Do it! Give it a try! It wont hurt, I promise, just watch your fingers when you are hacking away! 🙂 Haha, well then, you’ll see the 450 degree instructions there too! Honestly, the concepts are really easy- hack, peel, hack, scoop out seeds, hack, toss, bake. No hidden secrets or steps. What you see is it. If you do try, let me know how you end up!

  3. Oooooh I like this idea indeed! Now, did you just hack it up, skin and all and nuke it, then scoop out the flesh when it cooled, or did you peel, chop, the whole nine yards then nuke it? Because I bet just hacking it up would be fine…

  4. I can’t resist this comment, forgive me if anyone gets offended…but..

    pumpkin is rather awesome for the prostate.
    Eat up hubby! 😉

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