How to Cook or Bake a Pumpkin
It occurred to me that there may be others out there looking for things to do with a pumpkin besides carving a face into it and letting it rot on your porch until New Years. As much as I love seasonal decorations, you and I can do so much more with pumpkin this time of year, when they are very cheap and in season. Pumpkin is a very versatile vegetable.
There is more to cooking pumpkin than serving it as a dessert. Certainly there are many desserts that you can make when baking a pumpkin, but I like to make pumpkin in main dishes too. In our family, we especially like to serve pumpkin in spicy dishes and I find pumpkin goes well in curry dishes too. Because pumpkin has a sweeter flavor, pumpkin works very well with curry type dishes, and helps to offset some of the fire.
Below are my ten favorite ways to serve pumpkin in our house. Please use the comment section to tell me of the ways you like to serve pumpkin, and include a link to your hub pages with pumpkin recipes! Thanks
Preparing Your Pumpkin for Use
Before we can start to cook with pumpkin, we need to prepare our pumpkin to be used in our recipes. I usually start with one of three methods, depending on what I'm using the pumpkin for.
I know that Martha Stewart, from what I read, recommends that you boil the pumpkin, then squeeze out the excess water. I am hear to tell you that to prepare pumpkin for pie, or any baked good, baking or roasting a pumpkin first is the way to go. Why?
- It's so much easier.
- You don't have to squeeze out the water
- The pumpkin flavor is better
- All of the vitamins from this healthy orange vegetable are not left in the blanching water!
Baking a Pumpkin
- Begin by washing the outside of your pumpkin well. Preheat your oven to 325° F.
- Slice the pumpkin in half, either up and down, or across (whichever is easier for you). I find the best knife for slicing pumpkin is a large, heavy bread knife, with a serrated edge.
- Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. If you want to use the seeds, set them aside.
- If your pumpkin is very large, cut your pumpkin into wedges. With a smaller pie pumpkin, this is not necessary. I just find it easier to fit it into the oven.
- Place your pumpkin wedges flesh side down into a large lasagna pan, with about a half inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Cover your pan with foil or a lid.
- Bake the pumpkin at 325° F for about an hour or until soft.
- After baking the pumpkin, peel the flesh off with a paring knife, and cut your pumpkin into the desired size or puree.
Grating and Freezing Raw Pumpkin for Later Use
Instead of baking a pumpkin before using, you can also grate up pumpkin flesh for later use in recipes. Here's how!
- Begin by cutting your pumpkin in half, and scooping out the stringy flesh and the pumpkin seeds.
- Cut the pumpkin into wedges to make it easier to handle.
- Using a sharp knife, such as a paring knife, carefully cut away the outer skin of the pumpkin. I find a knife is easier than a vegetable peeler for this, but you're free to try to use a peeler if you're more comfortable with that!
- Take your pumpkin, and either grate it on a hand held grater or process it in your food processor to grate it.
- Measure out commonly used portions of Grated Pumpkin (I usually use it in 1 cup increments) and freeze in freezer baggies. If you choose to freeze it in a larger baggie, you will be chiseling out grated pumpkin and kicking yourself. Don't ask how I know that.
Cubing or Dicing Raw Pumpkin
- Follow steps 1-3 above under "grating pumpkin".
- Instead of grating your peeled pumpkin, cut your pumpkin into the desired size and shape for use.
- Cook the pumpkin as per the recipe directions.
Tools for making ice cream at home
Forget those buckets with ice and salt in them. This is the BEST and only ice cream maker you'll need. You'll need a Kitchen Aid Mixer to use it though!
This is another great ice cream maker.
Baking Pumpkin Desserts
Naturally, pumpkin is best known to most people as a dessert vegetable, especially in pumpkin pie, served at Thanksgiving. To prepare pumpkin for baking as a dessert, use the method above, baking the pumpkin, and peeling the skin off of the cooked pumpkin flesh. Most of these recipes call for a pumpkin puree, so be sure to puree the pumpkin in a blender or food processor first.
Some Ideas I've tried and enjoyed include:
Baking Pumpkin Bread or Muffins
You can substitute pumpkin for banana in any banana nut bread recipe or muffin recipe. I find it helps to add some pumpkin pie spice to the recipe too, for added flavor. Alton Brown of Food TV has a good recipe for Pumpkin Bread too.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Yes, you heard me right.
I never thought such a thing was possible until I tasted some Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream at an apple cider mill a few years ago. Fantastic. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream is now one of my favorite homemade ice creams to prepare. You will need an ice cream maker for this. I prefer to use my Kitchenaid Mixer Ice Cream Attachment for that. Here's the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream that we've used. Her suggestion about topping the pumpkin ice cream with maple syrup is right on the money. Perfection.
A few years ago, I made a tragic mistake that turned into a happy discovery. I always keep frozen mashed banana in my freezer for baking purposes, just as I also keep frozen pureed pumpkin in my freezer. Normally I label them clearly too. Normally. I needed to make my banana chocolate chip almond biscotti for a party, and so I pulled out what I thought was mashed bananas (did I mention this was very early in the morning? ahem) and went through the recipe I always use. When I tasted it, I quickly realized two things:
- This isn't banana biscotti
- This tastes better than banana biscotti
So, Pumpkin Biscotti is now on my menu as a great dessert idea to bring along.
Just follow this recipe, substituting pumpkin puree for the banana. You can also add a pinch of pumpkin pie spices to give it some added flavor.
Cooking Main Course with Pumpkin
Pumpkin, as I said before, is a great ingredient to add to main courses.
Some creative ways to use pumpkin:
- Add grated pumpkin to soups and stews for added flavor and hidden nutrients
- Add grated pumpkin to pancake batter and waffle batter.
- Substitute carrots with pumpkin in any recipe, or add pumpkin alongside of carrots too
- Add finely chopped pumpkin to sweet and sour stir fries and curry dishes
- Add pumpkin to rice pilaf with other vegetables.
- Add pumpkin to ground meat when preparing hamburgers or meatballs
- Add pumpkin to shish kebob
You get the idea.
Here's a hearty stew to make with pumpkin that we enjoy:
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-3 finely minced chili peppers (optional)
- 1 pound of finely sliced boneless beef, chicken, or venison
- 2-3 cups of cubed, raw pumpkin
- 4-5 cubed raw potatoes
- 1 12 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 1 8 oz. can of hominy or corn
- 2T finely minced fresh cilantro (optional)
- 1t. cumin
- 1T. Chili powder
- 1 c. cooked or canned black beans
- 1 c. cooked or canned red beans
- Saulte the onions, garlic, and chili peppers in a small amount of oil in a large stock pot.
- Add the meat, and brown the meat, stirring frequently.
- Add the pumpkin, potatoes, and tomatoes.Bring to a simmer.
- Add the hominy, beans, and spices. Add enough water to cover.
- Bring to a simmer, and let it simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Serve with homemade bread.
Baked Stuffed Pumpkin
One of our favorite ways to serve Pumpkin is to bake small pumpkins stuffed with a variety of ingredients. There are endless possibilities to what you can do with baked, stuffed pumpkins.
- Begin by selecting small to medium sized pie pumpkins, and wash the outside well.
- Cut off the top of the pumpkin carefully.
- Scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds of the pumpkin.
- Stuff the pumpkin with your choice of stuffings (see below), and bake at 375° F for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh of the pumpkin is soft.
Some ideas for Stuffing Baked Pumpkins:
- Cooked Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf
- Cooked Brown Rice, Chopped Nuts, and Brown Sugar
- Bread Pudding
- Seasoned Bread Stuffing
- Eggplant Caponata
- The filling for Stuffed Peppers (use a meat thermometer to check the inner temperature of the meat for doneness. this may need to bake longer)
- Any meatball mixture (use a meat thermometer to check the inner temperature of the meat for doneness. this may need to bake longer)
Experiment with your own options for stuffing and Baking Pumpkin!
Pumpkin Just Like Ma Ingalls Used to Make
This neat book has over 100 authentic pioneer recipes in it, including a green pumpkin pie recipe like what Ma made in The Long Winter.
By the way, if you have a daughter, the Little House on the Prairie set is a great set of reading books about life on America's Frontier!
Cooking With Green, Unripened Pumpkin
Reading aloud to my children through Laura Ingall's "Little House on the Prairie" books, we came to a spot in The Long Winter where Ma takes a not-yet-ripe Pumpkin and bakes what Pa assumes to be an apple pie. Instead, it's actually using slices of unripened Pumpkin in an apple pie recipe! Naturally we had to give it a whirl in our house.
If you have a favorite apple pie recipe or apple strudel recipe, you can substitute green (unripe) Pumpkin for the apples. There is also an authentic pioneer recipe for Green Pumpkin Pie in the Little House Cookbook (which you can see to the right).
In fact, you can use a green pumpkin in place of apple slices in pretty much any recipe. It certainly does not taste like apple if you eat it raw (we tried), however green pumpkin does have a similar texture and flavor when cooked to Granny Smith Apples.
Knowing what to do with Green Pumpkin is especially handy when you notice cucumber beetles attacking and killing your pumpkin plants after you have not-yet-ripe pumpkins on them. This is where we developed these ideas for cooking with Green Pumpkin. Prepare your pumpkin by either grating it raw or cubing it raw (as per the above instructions).
What can you do with Green Pumpkin?
- Grate it up and add it to curry dishes
- Substitute Green Pumpkin for Granny Smith Apples in most recipes
- Freeze grated green pumpkin in portion sizes for use in other recipes.