Archive for Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Fresh pumpkin is easy, but takes time

November 1, 2000

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I want to make a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin. What type of pumpkin should I buy?

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 inch 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 pur

How do I prepare the pumpkin?

Spread newspaper over your work surface. Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife and cut pumplin in half. If you are planning on roasting seeds, break the pumpkin open by smashing against a hard surface. In any case, remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. It's a messy job, but it will pay off.

Boiling/steaming method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks, peel and all. 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 minutes to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 minutes 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.

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 at 350 F for 1 hour or until fork tender.

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- to 2-minute intervals until fork tender.

Regardless of the method you use, 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 puror use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a pur

Pumpkin purfreezes well. To freeze, measure cooled purinto one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at zero F for up to one year.

Use this purin any recipe calling for solid-pack canned pumpkin.

How do you roast pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are easy to roast. Follow these instructions.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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1 quart water

2 tablespoons salt

2 cups pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 250 F. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.

Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Cool the seeds, then shell and eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat. Yield 2 cups.

How should pumpkin pie be stored?

Pumpkin pies belong in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

Many people fail to realize that even commercially prepared pumpkin-pie filling has a high proportion of milk and eggs, so it is highly perishable.

The high water, protein and sugar content of pumpkin pie provide a prime growing environment for bacteria. When pumpkin pie is kept at room temperature, bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels, possibly causing illness.

Keep pumpkin pie, custard pies and other rich egg-laden desserts hot or cold until ready to serve, then store leftovers in the refrigerator. Fruit pies are safe in the cupboard, pantry shelf or in a pie keeper on the countertop for no longer than two days to prevent fermenting or molding, spoiling the pie.

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