Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no? It’s Autumn, you say? Really? Where’d my Summer go?!!
You might also feel that way…just a bit?
This post really brings me into reality. I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)
“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010
I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter. I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin. But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree. I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out. It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween. I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.
Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can. Instead I prefer to freeze it. The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough. Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash. NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.
So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees. By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September. That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins. Here is what I do:
Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher). You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy. Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half. Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks! Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.
Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes. Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming. I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….
Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are. Smaller equals faster.
You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell. Take out and let cool a few minutes. You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch. Your secret. 🙂
Next is up to you. At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes. I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh. So here is what I do:
With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill. Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath. Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming. Warmer is better.
If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label. 100% pumpkin.
SO EASY. AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t. You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.
Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie. Which should be another post perhaps. Equally as easy, but oh so tasty! My favorite pie. I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married. I love it that much.
Do you bake your own pumpkin? What is your favorite variety for it?