By the end of every October in the United States, one is likely to see pumpkins (or winter squash) in grocery stores or out on neighbors’ lawns as part of a Halloween display. Indeed, Halloween serves as the first “official” holiday of the fall season. And the array of pumpkin sightings do not stop there as they are also on the television in the form of cartoons, such as the famous Peanuts short, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or being used on-screen in the scary movies playing back-to-back on the local movie channel.
Being the food enthusiast that I am, however, I always look forward to the fall season for the obvious—and original—use of the pumpkin: food. Pumpkins sometimes get a bad rap because they are big, messy, a little slimy, and not your average fruit*. But, if you are willing to look past all of the those things, I guarantee that you will never look at a pumpkin the same way. And, you will probably never (ever!) think about buying canned pumpkin again.
Each year I cannot wait to buy the biggest pumpkin that I can find. For the few dollars that the gourd costs, you can create a wide variety of meals, desserts, and snack options that will likely keep your taste buds happy well into the next month. Perhaps the most famous dish to create is pumpkin pie; but I have enjoyed everything from pumpkin soup and pumpkin ice cream to pumpkin doughnuts and pumpkin pancakes.
Of course, in order to make these wonderful recipes, first you will need to extract the flesh from the pumpkin. There are many methods for doing this, but I highly recommend roasting the pumpkin in the oven and then pureeing it. A description on how to do so is given at the end of this post.
I encourage you to find an alternative use for that fresh pumpkin this year. It is not just a decoration but a door to a wonderful food journey.
* Pumpkins have seeds and, therefore, are classified botanically as fruit.
How to Roast a Pumpkin
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut the pumpkin in half across the middle. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for roasting or other use.
Placing the seeds in a bowl of cold water eases the separation between the pulp, strings, and seeds.
Place pumpkin halves, cut-side down, on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. If the pumpkins are too large, you may need to do this step twice for each half.
Place pumpkins in the oven and let roast for 45-60 minutes, or until the flesh is soft enough to easily pierce with a fork.
Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool. Caution! The pumpkin will be very hot!
Once cooled, remove the skin and puree the softened flesh with a hand blender or food processor, adding water as necessary to facilitate the puree.
Freeze or refrigerate pumpkin puree in airtight storage containers for future use. Be sure to label all storage containers with the contents and date of packaging to ensure proper food-handling.