If you have begun to see pumpkins of all sizes at your local farmers’ market but aren’t sure what to do with them besides decorations and pumpkin pie then you’re in luck! Read on for tips on how to create delicious and satisfying savory pumpkin dishes.
How to Choose a Cooking Pumpkin
All pumpkins, no matter the size or shape, can be used for cooking. However some pumpkins are better for cooking than others.
5 Tips to pick a perfect pumpkin
- First, you should make sure there are no blemishes or cuts in the pumpkin skin. Any opening will make the pumpkin go bad much quicker.
- You also need to make sure the pumpkin has no soft spots because they're a sign it's going bad.
- You can use large pumpkins for cooking, but usually the smaller pumpkins are better for cooking because they have a little bit more sweetness, as well as smoother flesh.
- Small Sugar pumpkins, Baby Pams, Mystic pumpkins, and New England Pie pumpkins are some good varieties for cooking. The smaller ones have a thinner skin so are easier to crack. Also, the insides will be less stringy and watery.
- There are also unusual varieties like the white Lumina pumpkins or the blue-gray Jarradale pumpkins that both work great in recipes.
If you are still unsure about how to choose a cooking pumpkin then talk to the vendor at the market and they should be able to give you plenty of tips
5 Steps to Prepare Pumpkins for Cooking
Most recipes will call for pumpkin puree. When using fresh pumpkin, you need to prepare the flesh before cooking with it. Fresh pumpkin can be used as a substitute for any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree.
In general, a small pumpkin (about 4 to 8 pounds) will give you about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of pumpkin puree, so you can use that as a guide when purchasing your pumpkins.
- To prepare the pumpkin for pureeing, you should first clean it very well, removing any dirt from the outside.
- Then simply slice the pumpkin in half lengthwise, removing the stem, seeds, and any stringy flesh. You can save the seeds for roasting later.
- Place the two halves cut side down on a foil covered baking sheet or glass baking dish. You should cover the pumpkin with foil then bake at 375 degrees F for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the outside is tender.
- When the pumpkin is cooked through, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
- Then scoop out the flesh, discarding the skin and mash it or puree it until smooth. If you want really smooth puree then run it through a small holed strainer or food mill.
Preparing fresh pumpkin is simple and can even be done a few days in advance of when you need it. Homemade pumpkin puree will last in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week.