In my experience, most people know how to “process” a pumpkin by cutting a lid in the top, scooping out the insides, carving it and setting it on their porches with some sort of light in it….but wait!
There is another, better way to process this wonderful cultivar of the squash plant:
First, there are many kinds of pumpkins. I grow sugar babies, which are small in size with fine-grained, sweet fruit.
If you buy one at your local market or produce stand, look for one that isn’t too big. In this case, smaller is better.
To tell if a pumpkin is ripe, check three things:
1. The shell is hard. Winter squashes, which includes pumpkin, harden on the outside as they ripen.
2. Note the color. A ripe pumpkin should be deep yellow or orange with no green on it.
3. The stem should be dry and break off easily. Okay, vendors might not like you breaking stems off, so save that one until you are sure you want to buy a particular pumpkin.
If you don’t like the looks of any of the pumpkins and you still want a really fresh pie or goody, go for the acorn squash: It’s a fabulous substitute, which can be cooked in the same way.
Now that you are home with your acquisition, wash the outside thoroughly.
Then, cut the pumpkin in half. Be careful: They’re tough little buggers; don’t cut yourself.
Scoop out the seeds and the stringy stuff in the middle. If you want, save the seeds. They can be roasted for a healthy snack.
Now you are ready to cook your pumpkin. There are three good ways to do this. My favorite is to turn them upside down in the crockpot. Cook the halves on high for 2-3 hours, or until they are tender.
If you prefer, you can cut the pumpkin into fourths, put a little water in the bottom of a large stockpot and boil them until they’re tender. This takes less time.
You can put them upside down on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350 for about an hour. I’ve done this and it works well.
Okay, there’s one more way, but I don’t like it: Cook them in the microwave.
Regardless of how you cook your pumpkin, let it cool thoroughly.
Next, peel it and put the pumpkin in a blender. You might need to add about 1/2 cup water to get a nice consistency.
Blend until the pumpkin is completely pureed and smooth.
Now you can either make your favorite recipe or freeze the pumpkin. I measure 2 cups into a freezer bag, flatten it as I seal, so that I can stack the bags; then into the freezer it goes.
When you thaw pumpkin, set it in the refrigerator. I find that it separates and gets a real weird texture if thawed too quickly.
There you have it.
Next time, I’ll tell you how to roast the seeds. Meanwhile, clean all the stringy stuff off, rinse them and lay them out on a paper towel or plastic lid to dry. Once all of the moisture is off the outside, put them in a container or bag in the fridge.