Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baking With Real Pumpkins!

Cutting through the pumpkin

They're done!

Squeezing out moisture

Mmmm, fresh muffins!
'Tis the season for winter squash, including pumpkins!  Baking with real pumpkins is easier than most people think.  And so yummy!  And good for you with all the nutrition of fresh food and without worries about additives in canned pumpkin or strange chemicals in the lining of cans!

I highly recommend you find yourself some of the small pie pumpkins.  You can bake with the larger pumpkins sold for Halloween carving, but the flesh of those has more water, is more 'stringy' and has less flavor.  Pie pumpkins, such as 'Sugar Pie' or 'Conneticut Pie' have been bred for smooth texture and flavor. I always need a little help cutting through winter squash, so I embed the knife and then tap it gently through with a small hammer.  You begin by cooking the pumpkin by roasting or boiling.  I cut the pumpkins in half, removed the seed pocket, placed them face down on a greased cookie sheet and baked at 350 C for about forty minutes, until I could easily pierce the skin with a fork.  Once cooled, I scrapped out the flesh and you have the fresh equivalent of canned pumpkin!  At this point, you can freeze some of the flesh for baking or soups later.

I decided on muffins, using this recipe from Foodmomiac, which also has great instructions for using real pumpkin.  First thing is to squeeze the pumpkin meat to remove excess water.  When you're baking with pumpkin do not skip this - it will really improve your product and is crucial if you want to make great pumpkin pie!  It's not necessary if you're making soup or stew.  I wrapped mine in cheesecloth and twisted to squeeze out the moisture - I never cease to be surprised at how much comes out of even a 'Sugar Pie' pumpkin!  You could also press it into a sieve. Add spices, flour and the rest of the ingredients, mix and bake.  It really is that easy!  If you want to make a superlative pie, it really helps to put the pumpkin meat through a food mill, food processor or blend with a mixer/hand blender to get the ultimate smooth texture!  Here's super instructions for making a pumpkin pie from scratch from '', along with links to lots of other great recipes like pumpkin loaf, cookies and muffins.  And don't forget to roast the seeds for snacking!  Once you've cooked your pumpkin, you can use any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin, you just need to add the spices that would already be in a can of pumpkin pie filling: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, all-spice.  Some people like a touch of vanilla; you can really customize your spices!  I freeze my pumpkin without spices and without squeezing so that I can use it for whatever I want when it thaws out.  Just in case you're ready and roarin' to go, here's a link to Saveur Magazine and all things pumpkin, from ice cream to ravioli to soup to cake!  Are you ready to give fresh pumpkin a try?

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