Monday, September 23, 2013

Cinderella's Revenge - Crushing the Pumpkin

Pumpkin in cans.  I can't even talk about it without gagging.  But I love, love, LOVE almost anything pumpkin!  Pumpkin muffins?  Yep.  Pumpkin eggnog?  Oh yeah.  I even discovered yesterday that I like O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer, and I don't really even like beer!  But when I open a can of pumpkin, the look, the smell...it all churns my stomach.

Luckily, there's a much better way to get pumpkin.  Does it take a little more time and work than opening a can?  Honestly, yes, it does.  But you also get a much better pumpkin taste, you save money, and you don't have to worry about what ill effects the metal in the can might have on your long-term health.  By know, you've probably figured out what a control freak I can be about my food, and nothing makes me happier than being able to control where my food comes from and how it's handled and prepared.  So, why should pumpkin be any different?


Roasting a pumpkin is totally easy.  Heat your oven to 350.  Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet with edges (the pumpkin may seep some liquid...don't want that on the bottom of your oven!).  

Oops, I guess I forgot the first step: get a pumpkin.  My preference is the smaller "pie" pumpkins, sometimes called things like "sugar" pumpkins, or "sweet" pumpkins.  Anything adorable sounding that makes you think of a grand pumpkin nursery where baby pumpkins are rocked and coddled and sung lullabies by those huge warty grandmothering pumpkins.  Two reasons for this: One, they cook more quickly.  Two, they generally have more flesh for the weight.  Did, I say two reasons?  I meant three.  Three: they actually have more flavor to them, most of the time.

I got these pumpkins from an Amish farm, for a buck each.  Not a bad deal, considering that I'll probably get 4-6 cups out of each (that's about 3 cans worth), plus the seeds to snack on...which you don't get from a can.  See how green the stem is?  You can't get much fresher without picking it yourself.

Side note:  If you ever come across a dusty orange, smooth looking pumpkin called a "cheese" pumpkin, forget what I said about the adorable baby sweeties and grab that one.  Cheese pumpkins have what I feel is the perfect pumpkin flavor.  They're pretty awesome.  

Okay, back to the pumpkin massacre.  Your oven's heating, you've got the pumpkin, the baking sheet is prepped.  Now, take the pumpkin and carefully slice it in half.  I like to go top to bottom, so that I can take out the stem easily, but I'm guessing you could slice it around the middle, if you wanted, with the same end results.  

Once it's in half, take out the stem (if it hasn't already broken off).  Then scoop out the "guts" and seeds with a sturdy spoon.  Save those seeds for later!

Place the pumpkins cut side down on the baking sheet.

Pop them in the oven for about an hour, or until they are starting to look mushy and deflated. Bigger pumpkins will need longer.  Start checking at about 50 minutes.

Flip them over and let them cool a bit.

Scoop out the now-mushy flesh into a bowl.  Discard the empty shells.

Mash the pumpkin with a masher or other tool of your choice.  I like to use my immersion blender.  Makes for smooth pumpkin yumminess!

Use right away, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze in individual servings for later use.  I've found that the snack sized zipper bags hold almost exactly a cup of mashed pumpkin, so that's my mode of choice.

As for how to use all this orange mushy goodness?  Well, we'll get to that soon...stay tuned!