maandag 15 november 2010

How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin

My favorite part of fall is food laced with pumpkin! From scones to lattes, to cookies and roasted seeds, I never get sick of pumpkin.

Although most recipes that use pumpkin will allow you to use canned puree, it's not as hard as you might think to cook your own fresh pumpkin to use in your recipes.

Not all Pumpkins are Created Equal

There are well over 50 different varieties of pumpkins. Some were developed specifically for carving and decoration, while others were developed for use in food. The jack-o-lantern varieties, while large and impressive, aren't as good to eat.

Most have been grown to carve and are stringy, tasteless, and watery. You can eat them without harm, but you'll get better results with your pumpkin if you use a variety grown specifically for culinary purposes.

A culinary pumpkin is usually much smaller than their jack-o-lantern cousins. Their small size makes them easier to manage in the kitchen, easier to cook and cut into pieces. They also have much better flavor and texture for cooking.

Popular cooking pumpkins have names like Pie, Sugar, Cheese, Cinderella and Sugar Pie.

Methods for Cooking Pumpkin

There are several ways to cook a fresh pumpkin, but the preparation work is essentially the same, regardless of the way you cook it. First, cut your pumpkin in half and remove all seeds and membrane from the inside.

Next, decide on a method you will use for cooking it. You can bake, boil or microwave it. Although there are different techniques, because the end goal is pumpkin puree, the method you choose is more out of personal preference than finished result.

For baking, cover a cookie sheet with foil and place your pumpkin halves flesh side down on the sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven. The length of baking depends on the size of pumpkin you're cooking. For an average sized cooking pumpkin, it will take 1-1.5 hours.

If you choose to boil the pumpkin, fill a large pot with water. Cut the pumpkin into quarters and add to the water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender.

To microwave the pumpkin, place quartered chunks in a microwave safe dish and microwave for approximately 6 minutes per pound of pumpkin you're cooking. Occasionally rearrange chunks to help ensure even cooking.

No matter which cooking method you choose, you will know it's done by sticking a fork in the flesh. If it's easily pierced and tender, it's done. At this point, remove the soft flesh from the rind of the pumpkin with a spoon or ice cream scoop.

To turn your pumpkin into a puree to use in most recipes, simple mash the pumpkin with a potato masher, or use a food processor or blender to puree it. A typical cooking pumpkin will yield 1-2 cups of puree for you to use in any of your favorite recipes.

Although it adds a bit of extra time to create your own pumpkin puree, cooking fresh pumpkin is a healthy, simple alternative to the canned variety on the store shelf. So next time you're hungry for a recipe calling for pumpkin, pick up a fresh pumpkin from the store and try your hand at making your own puree.

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Farming ( is an urban guide to raising and growing your own food in small spaces.

For some great recipes using pumpkin puree, check out this page:

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