The Great Pumpkin

Tell me again, is it fall or is it spring that is my favorite time of the year?   I suppose that depends on when you ask me!    Abruptly, we have gone from very warm weather, smack into the middle of my favorite season!

Last weekend was the last Farmer’s Market of the year and we just happened to be there as they were closing.    One farmer, anxious to not lug anything back home, saw me eyeing his pie pumpkins and he quickly threw me an offer of $5 for the remaining 7.   How could I refuse?!

With visions of the spectacular fall goodness these autumnal orbs offered, we loaded them into our bags, headed home, and I got to work.   Until last year, I always used pumpkin in a can.  No difference right?  Wrong!  The freshness and consistency can’t be compared.  My husband, the pumpkin pie fiend, will never let me go back.  (I’ll share my favorite recipe at the end.)

When choosing your pumpkins, look for ones that are smallish to medium sized, and blemish-free.   One of my pumpkins had a very small bad spot on it, and when I sliced it open, I saw it has spread to the inside, so I ended up throwing it away.  Pie pumpkins are much smaller than jack o’ lantern pumpkins, are sweeter and have a much nicer consistency when pureed.   Expect to get close to 2 cups of puree per pumpkin, just enough for the most scrumptious pie you have ever tasted!

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Start by giving them a good wash to remove any dirt they may be holding on to from the field.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Pop off the stem, or you may need to cut it off (slice the pumpkin in half just to the side of the stem and then notch it out).    Cut the pumpkin in half (or quarters if they will fit better on your pan) and scoop out and throw away the gunk.

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Set aside the seeds into a bowl.    Cover them with water and plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you’re ready to make them.  I roasted mine a couple of days later (see recipe below).   I also rescued a few good seeds by washing them then placing on a paper towel to dry for a couple of days.  I then slipped them into an envelope where they will stay in a cool place until planting next year.

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I line my pans with foil for easy clean-up.  Place the pumpkin flesh-side-up on the pans and roast in the oven about an hour, until your fork proves it’s tender all the way through.  Your fork should slide in easily all the way to the skin, there should be no “crunch” at all.

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I didn’t have enough room on my pans for one lonely pumpkin and I didn’t want to wait another hour to cook it.   I sliced up this extra pumpkin, put him in a Corelle dish with a couple of inches of water,  covered and microwaved for about 15 minutes.    Worked like a charm!

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After they have cooled down, simply scoop out the beautiful orange flesh into your food processor and puree in manageable batches.  It doesn’t take long at all, just give it a ride for a handful of seconds.  You’ll know when the consistency is right, the picture below may help

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Measure into two cup portions and place into quart-sized freezer bags.

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Try to get as much air out of the bag as you can and flatten for easy storage in your freezer before sealing.  Label the bag with the contents and the date.    I’m not sure what the “recommended freezer life” is, probably 6 months.  Don’t tell anyone, but I found a bag in the freezer from last year, and used it to make a pie.  It turned out perfectly and no one died.  Each one of these bags represents a future pumpkin pie!

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I had a little over a cup left.  What to do, what to do?   Pumpkin is a wonderful and healthy treat for dogs, which aids in digestion!   A few heaping tablespoons mixed into Dudley’s dog food (can be refrigerated for a couple of days), made for a very happy boy!

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees .  Rinse approx 2 cups of your seeds in a colander and set aside.  Melt about 1.5 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.   From there it’s all personal preference, add what you like to the butter and mix together.   I like the following:  A  teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of teriyaki sauce,  1/2 teaspoon of season-all, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt.  Yum.    Add this to the pumpkin seeds and mix well.  If you had your seeds in the fridge, your butter may seize up when you add it to the bowl.  No worries- just put the whole thing in the microwave for twenty seconds or so, then give it a good mix.     Line your pan with foil again (you’ll thank me later for this one!), and slowly roast until done- about an hour, flipping once with a spatula half way through.  Give them a taste to see if they are done, they shouldn’t be to chewy, they should be nice and crisp.   An absolute treat especially when they are warm, they won’t last long.   Here my daughter sneaks a few while I’m snapping a picture.

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Creamy Pumpkin Pie:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-pumpkin-pie/detail.aspx

Not my recipe, but follow the link to the best pumpkin pie you will ever have.  I promise.  Yummy the first day, and even better the second day- if it lasts that long.   I place mine in the fridge if there is ever any left.   One VERY important thing to note, as all of the reviewers call-out, the recipe gives the wrong amount of pumpkin.   Use only 2 cups of pumpkin, which conveniently is exactly the amount you have processed!   I also add a teaspoon of allspice.

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Yep, fall is definitely my favorite season.

Here’s to hoping the Great Pumpkin is very good to you this Halloween!