Pumpkins provide a taste of fall

By Tanya Davis | Published Thursday, October 28, 2010

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It is fall, and thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and to Halloween jack-o-lanterns. But, can you use a pumpkin for both a jack-o-lantern and for eating?

I am asked that every year by those who want to prepare fresh pumpkin for use in making pies, cookies and cakes. The information below will give you helpful hints if this is your first effort in preparation of pumpkin.

Oh, how I love the taste of pumpkin pie this time of year! It is an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease.

Here are tips on preparing a pumpkin to make pie.

Work on a clean surface. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.

Remove the stem with a sharp knife and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. It’s a messy job, but it will pay off. Rinse in cold water.

The pumpkin should be cooked in one of three ways: boiled, baked in an oven or microwaved.

With the boiling/steaming method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Place pieces in a large pot with a cup of water. The water needs not to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander.

With the oven method: Place pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour or until fork tender.

With the microwave method: Place halves cut-side down on a microwave-safe plate or tray. Cook on high for 15 minutes; check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

Now we’re ready to prepare the puree.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree, or use a food mill, strainer or potato masher to form a puree. Don’t let your cooked pumpkin sit at room temperature longer than two hours in the process of making puree.

Now the puree is ready to be used to create your favorite pumpkin dishes!

For information on food safety and nutrition, call the Wise County Extension office at (940) 627-3341.

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