Hi everybody! It’s Christine again, checking in for Sweet-Tooth Friday! Today we are going to take one of the season’s most popular flavors and give it life outside the can- I’m talking about fresh pumpkin!
While my big bro was busy qualifying for Boston, I spent the weekend at his house chilling with his two dogs. It was really great to get out of the city for a couple days, and I took advantage of one of the many roadside stands and picked out a couple pumpkins to take home.
Ok I have a confession to make: I’ve never baked with fresh pumpkin. As far as I know, I’ve never even tasted it. I hardly use any canned products, but for some reason every October I turn my back on the plethora of fresh gourds available and reach for the ol’ can of Libby’s.
In either form, pumpkin is a great choice because it is loaded with vitamin C and E, lots of fiber, and cancer-fighting heart-disease-battling carotenoids. That’s both beta-carotene and alpha-carotene! Canned pumpkin is actually better in that department because during the canning process, the heat turns the beta-carotene into a form our bodies can absorb better. On the other hand fresh pumpkin is sweeter and has more fiber than canned; it also comes with seeds that are superfoods in their own right! The seeds have healthy fat, lots of vitamins and minerals, protein and cholesterol-lowering power.
I heard there is a taste difference between the kind of pumpkins grown for jack-o-lanterns and the kind grown for baking, but others say they cook their carved pumpkin after the festivities are over. So I bought three little “sugar pie” pumpkins and one regular large one to see for myself.
I read up on several ways to “best” cook a pumpkin: roasting, steaming, and microwaving. Before I could recommend any one way to you dear readers, I tried all three methods. The results? The roasting took over an hour and dried the pumpkin out. The steaming method worked fine but I was concerned that a lot of the nutritional benefits were lost in the water. The regular sized pumpkin came out flavorless and watery. In the end, my favorite combination was the ‘sugar pie’ pumpkin in the microwave. This had the best flavor and texture with the easiest preparation.
Before we get started on the how-to, I have three warning equations for you to consider:
1. Pumpkins + Knives = Slippery sharp mess. Count your fingers!
2. Carved pumpkin + Several days on your porch = Compost, not pie. Start fresh!
3. Pumpkin + Plastic Wrap + Microwave = Very hot steam. Just like your bag of jiffy pop.
How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin Puree
Choose a firm ‘sugar’ or ‘pie’ pumpkin that weighs about 4 lbs. If you can’t find this type of pumpkin, use a sweet winter squash like butternut.
Begin by washing any dirt off the pumpkin and drying thoroughly.
Cut a circle around the stem and pull the top off, just as if you were doing a jack-o-lantern.
Cut the pumpkin down the middle and pull apart the halves. Scoop out the stringy gooey stuff along with the seeds and set aside.
Cut the pumpkin rind into chunks and put in a microwave safe bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes. Using pot holders, carefully remove the plastic wrap and stir up the pumpkin. Cover with new plastic wrap and return to the microwave for 10 more minutes. The pumpkin should be very soft and slightly darker in color.
When the pumpkin is cool, peel off the outside skin. I found this easier with a sharp knife rather than a vegetable peeler. The pumpkin can now be pureed in a food processor or mashed with a pastry blender depending on how smooth you want it.
While the pumpkin is in the microwave or cooling, take the time to separate the seeds from the pumpkin goo. The seeds can be washed, seasoned, and pan or oven toasted for a yummy and healthy snack. (I sprinkled mine with a chipotle season-all.)
I got 2 cups of pumpkin puree from each of my 4 lb pumpkins- about equal to one can from each! I divided the puree into three ziplocks and stuck them in the freezer, ready for any recipe from pies to soup. Now, was all that preparation and gooey mess worth the effort?
We’ll have to wait until next Sweet-Tooth Friday to put our homemade fresh pumpkin puree to the test!