Choosing And Using Your Pumpkin

It’s officially fall, the pumpkins have arrived. Our local pumpkin patch is in full swing. Its time to pull out the carving tools and pie recipes. Here are some tips to help you choose the right pumpkin for your purpose.

For cooking and pie making, choose a pie pumpkin or sugar pumpkin variety. These pumpkins are not as fibrous as the large carving pumpkins and will produce a better taste and texture. If these are not available, a small to medium-small size tender carving pumpkin will do if you must.

Choosing a Pumpkin For Carving

If carving is your goal, choose your pumpkin according to the design you have in mind. Small, tender pumpkins are easier for children to carve, but will not last as long as an older tougher shell. Choose a pumpkin large enough for the amount of detail you intend, but not so large as to lose your design. Inspect the pumpkin carefully for bruises, soft spots, or any indications of mold or mildew. Don’t forget to inspect the bottom and the top around the stem. Firm hard flesh and a sturdy stem are signs of a healthy pumpkin.

Look for a pumpkin that has a flat spot and will sit upright without toppling. This will help keep it stable for carving and displaying. For longer life, consider painting your pumpkin rather than carving, or wait until the last minute to carve your design.

Prepare your pumpkin for carving or cooking by removing the lid and scooping out the seeds and fibrous mess in the cavity. Be careful to create a ledge when removing the lid, so that it will sit on the pumpkin when replaced. Scrape the flesh clean. The seeds can be saved and toasted later for a tasty treat. For easier carving, remove most of the flesh, leaving about an inch of shell.

Your carved pumpkin will keep longer if soaked in water with a little bleach added. This will kill the mold and rot and help preserve the flesh. After soaking, be careful to dry the pumpkin thoroughly.

Preparing a Pumpkin For Cooking

If baking the pumpkin, leave the shell intact, or halve it according to the size and your intended use. For stewing, peel the pumpkin and cut into uniform size pieces.
This pumpkin puree recipe can be used in any recipe where you might use canned pumpkin puree.
Pure Pumpkin Puree for Pie
1 (6-7 pound) pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.Halve pumpkin crosswise and scoop our seeds and strings. Place halves in a large baking pan with a bit of water, hollow side down, uncovered.
2.Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 1 ½ - 2 hours or until fork tender. Remove from oven and cool.
3.Scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at a time, in a blender 15-20 seconds or on high speed in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade for 10-15 seconds. Mix in salt. Makes 1 quart.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Try this delicious variation of two holiday favorites:
Pumpkin Layer:
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell (4 cup volume)

Pecan Layer:
2/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter or margarine (melted)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan halves
1.For pumpkin layer: combine pumpkin, sugar, egg and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl; stir well. Spread over bottom of pie shell
2.For pecan layer: combine com syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla in same bowl; stir in nuts. Spoon over pumpkin layer.
3.Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on Wire rack. Makes 8 servings
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds from 1 pumpkin
1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.Rinse seeds under running water in a colander. Remove all fibers.
3.Lay seeds on paper towel and pat dry.
4.Place seeds on cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.
5.Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.
6.Leave in the pan to cool. Store in a plastic bag.

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About The Author, Diane Watkins
Diane Watkins is a traditional southern cook. You can find more pumpkin recipes at her website: Easy Southern Cooking. We are currently working to post our holiday recipes.