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Posts Tagged ‘produce

Now that you’ve carved, painted, or otherwise decorated with your pumpkin, it is time to prepare the pumpkin flesh. Pumpkins are a delicious food, so often relegated to mediocre pies made from canned, tasteless mystery veggie. Take back your fall baking by producing your own pumpkin puree for your fall recipes.


It’s going to be DELICIOUS.

Tools Needed:
Large cooking pot(s)
Large knife
Several bowls or buckets
Cutting board
Colander

You may want to have an idea of what recipes you want to use your pumpkin for before you continue. In general, most pumpkin recipes you find will call for canned pumpkin. The boiling method I describe below will yield something similar but much, much more tasty. If your recipe does NOT call for this, please disregard that part of my advice and chop, slice, or dice your pumpkin as you need!
I have seen other blogs suggest to just cut up or scrape your pumpkin and then pureé it in a blender or food processor. I prefer this way for a few reasons – first, I’m not keen on the idea of burning out my blender motor. Second, if there are any germs or contaminants in the pumpkins, the boiling will kill them. And third, the texture of the pumpkin is much smoother and softer this way.

If you did not carve or decorate your pumpkin, and just want to eat it, here’s your part. There are a couple of ways you can dissect your pumpkin. You could open it from the top (and scrape it, if desired) and then cut the rind into sections. Or, if you’re confident, you can use your knife to “peel” the rind off and then cut up the flesh from there. In either case, I’d recommend dividing the regular flesh into one bowl, and the stringy part with the seeds attached into another bowl. It makes it slightly easier to deal with this way, but you don’t have to.


Two buckets of pumpkin. We harvested this from two medium-large pumpkins.

Gather all the scraped and cut parts of your pumpkin, whether you carved it or not. You’ll first want to separate the seeds from the flesh. Don’t throw them away! These are edible too! Get as many of them as you can into a bowl by themselves. The stringy fibers they are attached to are just as tasty as the rest of the flesh – separate them and put them in a bowl or on a cutting board. Earlier, you noticed that I suggested to try to keep the stringy bits in one bowl and the scraped bits in another. This way, the seeds will only be among the stringy parts, and will save you some time in sorting out the seeds.


This is easy, but it does get a little monotonous.

Just keep at it until you’ve got a nice pile of scraped pumpkin flesh. Use your knife to give it a rough chop, and dump it all in a big pot with some water. Let it boil a bit. You want it to soften enough to be mashed so you can use it in recipes.


This pot is the scraped flesh. You can toss it in with the stringy part if you want.

If you have chunks of pumpkin flesh, such as from a pie pumpkin, or from the cut-out parts of your carved pumpkin, now is the time for them. Make sure all the outer rind is cut off the flesh. The rind doesn’t taste good. Cut all of this hard flesh into small cubes (dice it, in other words). Diced pumpkin meat is great roasted with honey (like sweet potatoes and carrots). If that’s not what you’re looking for, put it in a pot, add water and boil until soft, as before (see above). In general, don’t try to cook this hard flesh with the softer flesh, since it will take longer to soften this part.


These need to be diced. And make sure there’s no rind.

When it’s soft, pour it into a colander and let it drain. You can squash it to get all the water and juice out if you need dryer pumpkin, or just let it drain naturally if you want wetter pumpkin. You can leave it natural, or you can puree it in your blender so it’s extra smooth. Store for a short time in your refrigerator if necessary, or use immediately! The pumpkin can probably be canned or jarred if you want to. I have never done this, but if you have, please share your success story in the comments!

This is less than half of the total pumpkin from this day.
From the 2 pumpkins we carved this day, we ended up with over 80 ounces of fresh delicious pumpkin (this is less than half of it), plus half a butter-tub of seeds.

Now that you have fresh soft pumpkin, you have a huge world of recipes opened up. Beyond the typical pies, pumpkin can be used in all kinds of muffins, breads, scones, soups, cookies, pancakes, cakes, delicious coffee drinks, and probably dozens of other things. Google away, my friend.

Here are some recipes that I am planning to try this year:
Pumpkin Soup (from Creature Comforts)
Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes (from Two Peas and their Pod)
Pumpkin Cranberry Coffee Cake (from Amanda’s Cookin)
Pumpkin Butter (from FitSugar)
Yummy Pumpkin Bread (from Passionate Homemaking)

Pumpkin Spice Latte (from YumSugar)

That wraps up this installment of our Pumpkin Extravaganza! I’ve left Thursday blank in my schedule to allow for special posts like today’s. Make sure you come back tomorrow for Food Friday. I’m making my own version of Pumpkin Muffins, and we’ll learn how to turn those seeds into delicious pepitas!

It’s October, which means it is Pumpkin Season! My daughter looks forward to the ubiquitous pumpkin patches all year, and I hardly blame her! Pumpkins are an amazing vegetable. Delicious AND gorgeous. What more could you ask for? In this entry, I’m going to lead you through the entire process of selecting, decorating, preparing and eating a pumpkin. I know many people who seem to be intimidated by pumpkins – afraid that carving will be difficult or won’t look good, unsure how to use the flesh, whatever. Pumpkins are easy and fun, so rev up your gourds and let’s go!

Selecting a Pumpkin:
The best place to get a pumpkin (like just about any other vegetable) is at a farmer’s market, or even directly out of the farmer’s pumpkin patch. We get ours from a local nursery (which also sells giant mounds of apples, yum!). Your grocery store or even Walmart will also carry lots of pumpkins to choose from.
Pumpkins will be priced in one of two ways. They can be sold by the pound, or by the unit.
Generally, larger pumpkins will go by the pound. We paid 29¢ a pound for ours, but prices will vary (a medium-large pumpkin at that rate costs around 4$). Smaller pumpkins are usually sold individually. Sometimes they will be labeled “pie pumpkins.” This category goes for 2$ each at our nursery. And then there are the itty-bitty ones. These are often among the most decorative, and go for 50¢ each here.
I have seen grocery stores sell all their large pumpkins at a flat rate (say, 5$ each), and the tiny pumpkins and other gourds may be gathered into bags and sold in groups (and I have actually seen them go by the pound as well).
The best thing to do if pricing is a concern for you is shop around as much as you can, and then buy from the place you trust the most, that gives you the best deal.

Pumpkins are beautiful
So pretty.

To determine a pumpkin’s ripeness, look at the stem and the surrounding area. If it’s soft or shows signs of rotting, move on to the next one. You want the outside rind to be firm. Examine the pumpkin for mold, mildew, or worm holes (dirt is fine, and so are bumpy blemishes). Lastly, give the pumpkin a knock. It should sound hollow.


Veins are normal

Finally, the most important part. If you’re planning to use your pumpkins for decoration, give it a critical eye. Pumpkins with a smooth, evenly-curved side are best for carving (but of course you can carve any one you’d like). Many pumpkins will have a flat or indented side that is often discolored (due to how they laid in their garden), so make sure that this won’t interfere with your plans for the pumpkin. Smaller pumpkins tend to be pretty all the way around, so if you’re using them, say, as a centerpiece on your table, you may want to go small. Make sure to find a pumpkin with “personality”! Look for the ones that really speak to you. I like the ones with fine green veins, and lots of bumps. 🙂 You can carve any size of pumpkin, so if a tiny one is begging you to carve a cute little face on it, you don’t have to say no.

Bump in the Night
It’s gonna be a bumpy road…

When you’ve purchased your pumpkins, you may want to know how best to store them. Pumpkins like to be cool, but not too cold. I live in Northern New York, where it’s already getting rather chilly, so we’re keeping our pumpkins outside. If it frosts, cover them with a sheet to protect them. If you live in a warmer climate, your pumpkins might prefer to be inside, or even in a refrigerator. An unopened pumpkin will keep for quite a while if it’s kept cool. Opened pumpkins have a shorter life span, but cooler temperatures will give them a bit longer.

Decorating a Pumpkin:

Tools Needed:
Vegetable Brush
Carving tools – saws, scoops, etc
Several bowls or buckets
Patterns and Tape
Marker (if desired)
Any other decorative tools you’d like


A – saws, B – scrapers, C – use to scrape the outside rind, D – use to poke small holes, E – pounce wheel, F – use to make slits in the rind, G – use to make triangular cuts, H – veggie brush

Bring your pumpkins home and unload them into your kitchen. Lay out a towel on the counter and run a bit of warm water in your sink (just an inch or so). Use your veggie brush to give each pumpkin a good wash, getting into all the wrinkles. Usually they’ve been washed before they hit the market, but they can get dirty again. You won’t be eating the outside rind, though, so don’t obsess. This washing is just cosmetic. Dry them off.

If you’re painting your pumpkins, like these or these, take off from here. I love to do this, too, but I’m focusing on carving today.
I’ve seen tons of creative takes on pumpkins (I’m partial to this one using thumb tacks), so let your imagination run wild!

A note on patterns and carving tools: during the month of October, pattern books, often packaged with plastic tools, are easy to find, and cheaper than dirt. It’s quite easy to assemble a large collection of both. More expensive tools are available, but we never buy them. Eventually the plastic ones will deteriorate, true, but so will the metal ones. If the pattern books don’t pique your interest, you can find downloadable patterns all over the internet, and pull-out ones in many home and crafting magazines. And of course, freehand is always acceptable. If you don’t have special pumpkin tools, a spoon and a serrated knife should get the job done.

If you’re carving, cover your table with newspaper (and maybe some of your floor) and assemble your weaponry. First, you’ll want to use the tape to attach your pattern to the pumpkin. Take care to choose a smoothly-curved surface; that’ll make it easier to transfer the pattern. You can use a pounce wheel (like I have pictured above), or virtually any other pointy object, to trace the pattern, poking holes through the paper and marking the pumpkin. If you have “punch out” patterns, you can use the poking instruments or a marker to trace the pattern. You can also draw freestyle on the pumpkin.


This is the pattern, in marker, for my Raven lantern. I used a pattern – I’m definitely not that good at drawing.

Now, it is time to excavate your pumpkin! First, take your marker and draw a circle around the stem. Make the circle large enough to comfortably reach most of your arm into the pumpkin. Take one of your pumpkin saws (or a serrated knife) and cut out your circle. Angle your cut just slightly inward (the tip inside the pumpkin closer to the center of the circle than the handle) so that there will be a sort of “shelf” to support the “lid” of your pumpkin. Before lifting the lid off, use your saw to make some kind of notch on the back side, so that you can line up the lid properly later.


Beautiful stems are just a bonus

When you lift the lid, it may resist you. Just keep pulling; the stringy fibers inside will pull out. Cut off the dangly bits and put them in a bucket, and set it aside. If you look inside your pumpkin, you’ll see a lot of empty space and a weblike network of fibers covered with seeds. Reach in (yes it’s a little slimy) and start yanking out the fibers and seeds. Dump them all into a bowl or bucket. When it gets hard to get it out with your hands, employ your scoop. Try to get all of the stringy bits and seeds out before you start really scraping at the meat of the pumpkin, so you can put them into different bowls (this doesn’t really matter, but it makes it easier later on).

Use your scraping tool to start digging into the inside of the pumpkin, scraping away the good stuff. Pull it out and put in a container. Keep going until your arm falls off, haha. Your goal should be to get the pumpkin to a relatively uniform thickness of around an inch or slightly less. If it’s too thin, it may be too weak to support your carving. If it’s too thick, it’ll be hard to carve (and you’ll be wasting lots of tasty pumpkin!). Our general rule of thumb is to press on the rind from the inside. If you can indent (exdent?) the rind slightly, you’re about where you want to be. Don’t forget to cut or scrape the flesh from the bottom of your lid. When you’re done harvesting, take your containers of yummy pumpkin into the kitchen. You’ll still need a bowl for the pieces you carve out, however.

Ready to Carve
All scraped and ready to go

Get comfortable with your pumpkin and a saw. Your pattern may have given you instructions about which areas to cut out first; if so, follow them. If not, a good rule of thumb is to cut out the smallest, most detailed, and most interior pieces first. Be aware that as you cut, the surrounding parts will be less supportive. You don’t want to be cutting the center of a spider web last. Other than that, there are no rules. Cut as you see fit. Plastic pumpkin tools are always quite blunt, so don’t worry about cuts. Kids can do this, and generally love to! Follow the pattern you pounced, traced, or otherwise transferred onto your pumpkin (or don’t follow it – it’s YOUR pumpkin), placing the cut out pieces in a container as you go. If you’re not comfortable with the saw, here’s a cool idea involving cookie cutters and a mallet!

Do not start from the outside. Error.
Don’t start from the outside.

Start on the inside. Good job.
Good job.

When you’re done, sit back and give it a look. Does it need any touch-ups? Pay special attention to the angle of your cuts through the flesh, and remember that there’ll be light shining out. When you’re happy with it, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe away any juices or other leftovers. Set a small candle (or one of those fancy little electric lights) inside and let it glow! Pumpkin lanterns ALWAYS look better in the dark, lit from within, so even if you’re not entirely happy with it, don’t consider it a failure. Set your pumpkin carving outside and share it with the world!


They are hard to get good pictures of, especially with a mediocre camera.

When you master the standard technique, there are lots of other cool things to learn. You can scrape off some of the rind from the outside, leaving some of the inner flesh, so the light shines through. You get a lovely muted tone of light. This technique can be used to make much more detailed and subtle designs. This gallery shows this technique used several times. If you’re a true pumpkin master, the internet can be your guide into advanced techniques of pumpkin-fu.

Carving and other forms of decorating with pumpkins are only the beginning of the pumpkin fun. Our Pumpkin Extravaganza continues with a special Bonus Thursday entry on how to turn your pumpkin flesh into puree, and Food Friday will include a number of mouth-watering recipes.


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