Those beautiful pumpkins

It’s that time of year again. Everywhere I look, I see beautiful, deep orange pumpkins…in the grocery store, at roadside stands, on vacant corner lots. I realize that most of those pumpkins are destined to be carved into jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween decorations, but there is a whole other destiny for some of them–a culinary destiny.

Cooking with fresh pumpkin is one of the best things about Fall. Turning that beautiful orange globe into something you can cook with is easy. Here’s how:

One easy way to cook pumpkin/squash for pies, breads and such is to put half a seeded pumpkin in the microwave for about 15 minutes. Once cool it scoops out of the shell easily with a big spoon and can be pureed in the food processor. You can also use an electric mixer to puree the cooked pumpkin. The beaters pick up the large strings.

A second equally easy way to cook fresh pumpkin is to cut slits about an inch apart in the pumpkin and set it in about an inch of water in a pie pan. Bake until a fork goes in easily. You don’t need to scrape the seeds out in advance which is a big plus. Let the pumpkin cool and the skin will cut off easily. Cut it into chunks and scrape away the seeds, putting rest into the blender or food processer.
If you use the small “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins” the result will be quite dense and not nearly as watery as the regular pumpkins. If necessary, let set and then pour off excess liquid as it sets.

In general, when using fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin, the rule of thumb is that 1pound of packed canned pumpkin equals 2 c. of fresh pumpkin.

Cooked, fresh pumpkin can be frozen in ziplock bags and used for months. Now’s the time of year to stock up!