Preparing & Using Fresh Pumpkin

Preparing & Using Fresh Pumpkin
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pumpkinPreparing fresh pumpkin for fall recipes is easy and thrifty. The most flavorful pumpkins are the "Sugar" varieties such as Sugar Pie.  The pumpkins that are used as Jack O'Lanterns are also good, just not quite as sweet. The bigger the pumpkin, the more stringy it could be, so keep that in mind when choosing those for cooking. Look for a pumpkin that is firm with no soft spots.  Check around the stem and on the bottom of the pumpkin to be sure there are no darkened or soft areas which could indicate it's starting to rot. Buy as close to when you need to use the pumpkin as possible.

One of the easiest ways to cook the pumpkin is to use the microwave. Simply remove the stem, cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, and place the pieces in a casserole dish that can be covered. It's okay to cut the pieces further to make them fit into the casserole. Add an inch or so of water to the bottom of the casserole. Don't add any seasoning, butter or margarine. Place the covered dish in the microwave and cook on high for 10 minutes at a time. Use a pot holder to carefully lift the lid and test the pumpkin with a fork. It will be done when it's easily pierced. This will take up to 20 minutes, possibly longer, depending on how thick the flesh of the pumpkin is.

Once the pumpkin is tender, and cooled, you can peel the skin off, and puree the pulp in a blender.  It can also be mashed and used in bread, muffins etc. For use in pie the pumpkin usually needs to be processed in a blender so it's smooth and thick. If it seems too watery, use a wire strainer or cheesecloth to drain out the excess water. At this point you can use the pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pure pumpkin.  This is NOT the same as a can of pumpkin pie filling that has the spices added. Below is a good basic recipe for pumpkin pie from The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, published in 1944 by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. I did change some wording to clarify the instructions. I picked this pie recipe because it was in the section called "Pies That Save Sugar". In the introduction to the book they make mention of "problems that arise when food is scarce".  This cookbook would have been published during WWII when there was a shortage of supplies and families were doing everything they could to cut corners.

Golden Pumpkin Pie

Pastry for a 9 inch pie
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned strained pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, well beaten

Line a 9 inch pie plate with pastry, fluting the edge by pressing it with your fingers all around to create a decorative ridge. Chill the crust in the refrigerator while preparing the filling. Heat the strained pumpkin in a pan over medium heat for ten minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, flour, spices and salt. Stir in the heated pumpkin and the remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Pour into the chilled pie shell and bake in a 425 degree F. oven for 40 minutes or until a silver knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes one 9 inch pie.

Variation: substitute 1/2 cup maple syrup for the sugar and corn syrup, adding it to the pumpkin mixture after combining it with dry ingredients.

The following recipe is from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, published in 1949 by J.G. Ferguson and Associates in Chicago.

Pumpkin Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup fresh cooked or canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup milk

Sift flour, measure and resift into a large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives until the particles are the size of course cornmeal. Sift together sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and add to flour mixture. Stir to mix. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Gradually add milk and blend well. Turn into two 8 inch layer cake pans, bottom lined with thin plain paper. Bake at 375 degrees F. 25 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool 5 minutes in pan, turn out on cake rack and cool thoroughly. Frost between layers and for the topping as you wish. 8-10 servings.

Note: parchment paper made for baking would work well for this recipe.

Looking for more? Our friends at Alicia's recipes have tons of pumpkin recipes!

 

About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.

 
 

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