While baking with pumpkin can be as easy as going to the grocery store and buying a can of pumpkin purée, what if you were feeling ambitious and wanted to do the whole process yourself, starting with a whole pumpkin? Not all pumpkins are created equal and work well in cooking and baking, so here is a guide to help you pick and purchase the right ones.
What makes a good cooking and baking pumpkin?
Those big pumpkins you see at the pumpkin patch for carving into jack-o’-lanterns look appealing, but they’re the worst for cooking and baking. While yes, they are edible and you can cook with them, they’re very stringy, bland, and watery.
Which pumpkins do I choose?
The best pumpkins for baking and cooking with are sweet, flavorful, and have smooth-textured flesh. When shopping for pumpkins, look for the ones usually generically labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella, and Fairy Tale. Cinderella and Fairy Tale pumpkins have hard, thick skins but still have delicious flesh inside.
Choose pumpkins between four to eight pounds, and don’t worry if the outside looks a little dull — as long as you don’t see any big bruises or soft spots, it’s fine. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at cool room temperature.
Preparing Whole Pumpkins
Once you have the right kind of pumpkin, you can treat it like any other hard winter squash: Roast it whole, steam it, or cut it into smaller pieces before cooking into soups and curries.
To make your own pumpkin purée:
Chef's knife and cutting board
Food processor or food mill
Split the pumpkin and then scrape out the seeds. Scrape the seeds and attached strings out of your split pumpkin. Don't throw these away! If you don't have time to deal with them now, however, you can cover the bowl and refrigerate for several days.
Roast until soft and then scrape up the flesh. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the two halves cut-side up in a baking dish and roast for about an hour or until very soft inside. Remove from the oven and let cool. Scrape up all the flesh inside the pumpkin, leaving only an empty shell or rind behind. If there is a lot of thick flesh that is too hard to be scraped up, then the pumpkin needs to roast longer. Scrape up all the flesh inside the pumpkin, leaving only an empty shell or rind behind. If there is a lot of thick flesh that is too hard to be scraped up, then the pumpkin needs to roast longer.
Purée until smooth. Put all that scraped-up pumpkin in a food processor or food mill and purée until smooth. Refrigerate immediately; this will last for a few days in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer, well-sealed. When you take it out to use it, you will probably notice some water separation. Make sure to drain this water away before using it in a recipe!
Pumpkin purée freezes very well, so make a big batch to save for another baking project coming in the next couple of months, and don't forget to roast the pumpkin seeds!
Recipe from Faith Durand on www.thekitchn.com