Oops! Apparently I've accidentally deleted all of my images. I'll see about fixing that soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fresh Pumpkin

So I've still not managed to get photos of the finished dress, but I do have something else fun for you: Pumpkin!

Here in the US we have a holiday this week in which pumpkin tends to play a big part. There will be pumpkin pies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkins as decoration. It really has become a sort of 'mascot' for fall in general. lol  

Of course, most Americans when picturing a pumpkin automatically think of a specific thing: bright orange, shaped kind of like a beach ball with segments, and a big stem out of the top.  Well, this is my pumpkin:

If you think all pumpkins taste the same, then I challenge you to try a few different varieties. The orange ones are fine but I much prefer one of several heirloom varieties.  I find that the flavors are deeper, the texture is better, and I get such wonderful satisfaction out of their beauty.

Now I'm not sure which variety I have here. It is very similar in flavor to my favorite, a pink French heirloom variety that I could only ever find from this one old couple at our local farmers' market, but based on the color it is possibly a relative of the Jarrahdale, an Australian Heirloom.  

I've had a heck of a time hunting down a decent list of heirloom varietals for you to see, but I found one that is ok over at Haunted Bay.  I've found not to get my heart too set on getting a specific one though; better to wait to see what the farmers bring in and have fun picking from those.  That was especially true this year since I missed all but one farmers' market and had to get my pumpkin at the grocery store.

Preparation is pretty straight forward for me. Wash the outside to get the dirt off. Place it on a pan (something with a lip as juices will bake out a bit), and bake it for several hours.  I can usually tell when it is done by smell and by poking it with a knife. Be careful if you do this not to get steam burns.

The skin gets this rich amber and golden brown color to it and the inside, oh the inside is like a perfect fall sunset. 

I usually work my way around the top first, letting the majority of the juices collect in the bottom.  The skin is thin and leathery and peels off easily.  Wedge by wedge I remove pumpkin and separate it from the seeds and few stringy bits.

Then I spoon the seeds, stringy bits, and liquid out of the bottom and scrape the remaining pumpkin out of the shell.  From here it all goes into a pan on the stove.

As you can see there's still a lot of water left inside.  This is good stuff, though, so don't throw it away!  I pulled enough liquid out of my pumpkin to fill our medium-sized sauce pan. I added a bit of sugar and a pinch of salt and cooked it way down. We had this on pancakes instead of syrup. Yum!

The main meat of the pumpkin I reduced by about half.  I've found it's much easier and less labor-intensive if you let the oven do most of the actual cooking for you. That is, the pumpkin flesh needs to be cooked hot enough and long enough to have the right flavor and texture. The cooking on the stovetop afterward is mostly to remove moisture.  And if you don't plan to bake with your pumpkin, but are planning to use it in soup or stew you can eliminate that step entirely.
So half of the cooked pumpkin went in the freezer and half went into the fridge. The half in the fridge was put into soups and stews and many other things for about a week and a half. It was delicious.  And sometime in 2013 when I'm just dying for that rich pumpkin-y flavor I'll thaw the other half out and we'll enjoy it some more.
As for the pumpkin pie I'm making this week, I'll be using canned pumpkin.  As much as I love the fresh pumpkin I'm not a pumpkin snob, and I'm just as happy using Libby's pumpkin for a pie where I know they've already controlled carefully for moisture content and I know it will set up right. 
Happy Thanksgiving Week!


  1. I have been preparing pumpkins here this week too! Your grandmother has devised a recipe for pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin, and it sets up great. Let me know if you need a copy.

    Am inspired to try some different varieties -- I thought they were just for decoration!

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving! Patti

    1. I have grandma's recipe somewhere. I find the one on the back of the Libby's can works just fine if you cook enough water out of the pumpkin. I guess I'm a little selfish of my heirloom pumpkin since I only cook up maybe one a year... lol


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