Harvesting and Using Fresh Pumpkin

Harvesting and Using Fresh Pumpkin
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pumpkinsPumpkins aren't just for carving during Halloween. Cooking with pumpkin was an autumn tradition long before Libbys started selling canned, processed pumpkin. Some of the pumpkins that work well for cooking are New England Pie, Sugar Pie, Cinderella, Connecticut Field and Tricky Jack.

When harvesting pumpkins the stems should be cut so you have a 4 or 5 inch stem if possible. Pumpkins without stems do not store well, so it's important to pick them up from the bottom not by the stem. Pumpkins should be harvested when mature and the rind is hard, but before night temperatures fall below 40 degrees.

Don't harvest when the pumpkins are wet or allow them to become wet after harvesting. Any of these things will cause them to rot more quickly. After harvesting, allow the pumpkins to "cure" if possible. This is where they sit for 10 days or so in a temperature around 80 degrees and a fairly high humidity of 80%. This can sometimes be done in the field if it's warm enough, or near a furnace. The pumpkins will last longer if cured first. Afterwards, store them at 50-55 degrees in a location where the humidity is about 50-70% such as a basement or a garage. Don't store the pumpkins near apples or allow them to sit directly on a concrete floor.

Small to medium sizes pumpkins are best for baking and cooking because they have a finer textured flesh than the very large pumpkins. Look for heavy pumpkins, and ones that don't have a "hollow" sound.

To cook pumpkin, wash, remove the seeds and strings, and cut into cubes about 2 inches in size. Cook the pumpkin pieces until soft in boiling water, a steamer or a pressure cooker till tender. You can also bake your pumpkins by cutting it in half, removing the seeds and baking it skin side up, for about an hour in a 325 degree oven.

When it's tender, scrape the meat out of the skin and put it through a strainer, mash by hand or use a food processor. However you cook the pumpkin, you want to remove the strings and seeds, then mash the pumpkin. Cool it by placing it in a pan or large bowl that is sitting in cold water, stirring occasionally as it cools.

Once this is done, you can use it in recipes immediatelyor pack it into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label and freeze to use in recipes later. If it seems watery before or after freezing, drain it with a strainer to remove excess liquid.

Pumpkin Custard


1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup milk

1 tbsp. browned butter

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs, separated

Combine all ingredients except egg whites and mix well. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks and fold into pumpkin mixture. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Autumn Rarebit Soup


5 cups cooked pumpkin or squash

4 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves; crushed

1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Salt and pepper

In large heavy saucepan, bring pumpkin and stock to a boil; reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. In a blender or food processor, puree in batches. In clean saucepan, bring the pumpkin puree back to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt butter over medium low heat, sauté onion and garlic; stirring, until softened about 5 minutes. (do not brown-it will turn bitter) Add to pumpkin mixture; stir in cheese and simmer gently, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Meanwhile in skillet over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds, shaking pan often, for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and toasted. Season soup with salt to taste. Garnish with pepper and pumpkin seeds.

Herb Stuffed Pumpkins


4 small pumpkins (about 4 to 5 inches in diameter)

2 cups whole wheat bread cubes

1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup diced onion

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tsp. dried thyme or fresh can be used (2 tsp.)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

salt to taste

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 325°. Cut off pumpkin tops and set aside to use as covers. Scoop out seeds and membranes. Set pumpkins on a large baking sheet. In a medium bowl combine bread cubes, carrots, onion, broth, thyme, oregano, pepper, salt, parsley, and oil; toss well. Pack tightly into pumpkin cavities. Cover with tops. Bake 45 minutes, or until pumpkin shells are tender. Notes: You can vary ingredients such as sourdough bread cubes instead, or a touch of roasted garlic. I often like to sauté my onion, garlic and bread cubes a little beforehand.

Pumpkin Pudding


1 1/2 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 cup cream or half and half

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup sweetened whipped cream

1/4 cup finely crushed nuts

Combine the pumpkin, sugar, spices and molasses. Beat until well mixed. Mix beaten eggs with milk and salt. Cook in double boiler until it reaches a soft custard stage-where it coats a spoon. Remove from the heat and mix well with the pumpkin mixture. Turn into six small baking dishes and set in a pan of hot water to bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. To serve, turn out and top with whipped cream and the crushed nuts. Serves 6.

Pumpkin Cheese Pie


2 unbaked 9" pie shells

3 cups pumpkin puree, (fresh or canned)

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. ginger

3/4 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 tsp. cloves

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cup evaporated milk (1 large can)

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


12 ounces cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl. Beat well. Divide between the two pie shells. Combine all topping ingredients in small bowl of electric mixer. Beat until smooth. Spoon mixture carefully over the pumpkin filling, dividing topping between the two pies. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Chill for 24 hours before serving.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More on Pumpkin:

More Pumpkin Recipes

Roasting Pumpkins

The Perfect Pumpkin

Pumpkin Sweets

Pumpkin Sprouts

Pumpkin Dessert Recipes

Pumpkin Fudge and More

Pumpkin Traditions

Herbs and Pumpkin


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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