According to the US Department of Agriculture, 7 out of every 8 pumpkins sold are used solely for decoration. This is mostly because people do not realize that there are numerous varieties of pumpkins and they can be used for various food recipes.
Tan Cheese Pumpkins are a favorite with pie makers. They are wider than they are tall and are beige in color with deep ridges. They are also called Old Fashioned Cow Pumpkins.
Sugar Pumpkins are the traditional “pie pumpkins.” Cinderella Pumpkins look like fairy-tail carriages. They are flat, deeply ridged and have a lot of sweet, bright orange pulp. Peanut Pumpkins are flesh colored with spotty warts and make a great puree for breads. Jarrahdale Pumpkins are silverly blue in color and have a mild, sweet, nutty flavor with a buttery texture (they also contain a lot of water). Red Warty Thing Pumpkins are just that: red in color and covered in warts. Their flesh is sweet and finely textured.
Pumpkins are members of the gourd family and boast many of the same health benefits as other squash. They protect against cataracts and eye disease. They are high in antioxidants, thus protecting against cancer. They alleviate the difficult urination associated with an enlarged prostate and improve overall bladder function. Pumpkins protect against osteoporosis, kidney stones, and are a natural treatment of parasites such as tapeworms. They are high in iron, fiber, and zinc as well as protein and copper.
But to get these benefits, you need to eat the pumpkin, not just carve it and decorate your porch with it.
To use pumpkins in various recipes, you will need to peel the hard shell and puree the “meat.” To peel a pumpkin, there are 3 different methods. The first is to slice the pumpkin into manageable wedges that are easier to peel. Another method is to place halved or quartered pumpkin in the microwave for 5 minute increments to cause the shell to soften enough to peel away easily. The third method is to just roast or bake the pumpkin with the peel on and then just scoop the pulp from the shell.
How to make the puree varies only slightly based upon the pumpkin type. For instance, Jarrahdale and Peanut Pumpkins have a lot more water than Tan Cheese or Cinderella, and this water density needs to be adjusted for. In general, though, the pumpkin should have its seeds removed and either peeled, or just split in half. The pumpkin pieces should be arranged in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little water and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Bake at 400 F until the pulp is soft (time varies by pumpkin size but an average 2 LBS pumpkin will take about 40 minutes).
Once cool, if you haven’t already peeled the pumpkin, and then peel it. Mash the roasted pulp by hand in a large bowl or puree in a food processor. Line a large colander with several layers of cheesecloth or coffee filters and then add the mashed pulp. Place the colander over a bowl and cover the top of the colander with plastic wrap. Place the whole contraption in the refrigerator overnight to allow the pulp to drain. In the morning the puree is ready for recipes or for freezing.
Remember, pumpkins can be made into pies, breads, soups, and even mixed with other vegetables.
Labels: Fall Cooking