Pick the Perfect Pumpkin, Part II

Last week we discussed what to look for in a pumpkin you want to carve; this week we discuss what to look for in a pumpkin you want to cook.

With the mid-October chill in the air, your stomach may be craving the comfort of foods such as pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup or a baked squash of another sort. While you might begin your search at a pumpkin farm - just like someone looking to carve their pumpkin, what you look for in a pumpkin is a little different.

The University of Illinois Extension offers the following tips for picking and prepping a pumpkin that will grace your pie pan or soup tureen.

  • It should be heavy, shape is unimportant. A lopsided pumpkin is not necessarily a bad pumpkin.
  • Figure one pound of raw, untrimmed pumpkin for each cup finished pumpkin puree.

You can prepare the pumpkin for your recipes in three ways - Boiling/steaming, oven baking or microwaving.

Boiling/Steaming Method

Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork.

Oven Method

Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender

Microwave Method

Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.

Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0°F for up to one year.

Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.

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