Monday, October 28, 2013

Fresh Pumpkin - how to bake

Fresh Pumpkins

 Nothing says fall like fresh pumpkins and harvesting pumpkins from a local patch brings the freshness right to your table.

Iowa has more than 38 pumpkin patches devoted to raising pumpkins.  They are nutritious and delicious.  There are many recipes for using the pumpkin pulp (and many for using the pumpkin seeds - but I've never had the patience to clean the seeds from the stringy fibers from the inside of the pumpkin).

Acres devoted to pumpkin patches rose from a few acres over 300 in 1989 and now the acres on which pumpkins are grown are over 1000.

Once you have selected your "pie pumpkins" wash the exterior and make a knife sized slit in one of the sides of the pumpkins -- not crucial if you forget to make the slit but it will be easier to cut, and will allow the steam from the inside to escape as the pumpkin cooks in the microwave.

Place the pumpkin into a microwave and cook for 4-6 minutes.  Those few minutes will make the shell much easier to cut.  Once the pumpkin has been removed from the microwave allow it to cook, and then cut the pumpkin in half.

Scoop out the seeds and fiber strings that are on the inside of the pumpkin.  I generally use a ice cream scoop -- not a scoop that is like a melon ball scoop but more of a curved flatish type of scoop.  If some fibers remain it might be necessary to scrap them away from the flesh with a paring knife.  But just cut the fibers and scoop.

Actually you might feel you need to clean these completely out - but its really not necessary.  Just make sure the seeds are out.

Turn the pumpkin halves onto a cookie sheet (there will be some pumpkin water seep out so make sure you have sides on the pans).

Bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  The size of the pumpkin will determine exactly how long.  If you have a convection oven that speeds up the process.  When the skin of the pumpkin is shiny looking and begins to pucker the pumpkin is done.

The pumpkin shell looks almost as if someone has brushed oil onto the shell but no one has, it is simply the result of having cooked the pumpkin.

As the pumpkin coos a bit, the pumpkin skin (shell) begins to pucker.

Insert a knife or something into one of teh shell's puckers and begin to peel the pumpkin shell away from the pulp.

The flesh of the pumpkin is the part of the pumpkin that will be put in the food processor to be made into pumpkin puree.  This pumpkin will be package into bags with 2 cups of pumpkin, and others with 4 cups of pumpkin puree.  

Many recipes for using the fresh pumpkin may be downloaded from this site.

A bibliography of books about pumpkins - check this link.

From about 10 pumpkins I was able to package 38 cups of fresh pumpkin for freezing.  This pumpkin will make the very best pies, pumpkin rolls, and other pumpkin treats.

The recipes linked above are great recipes.  Explore the home site and find out other information about pumpkins.