Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to kill a pumpkin

My Sunday confession: I'm drained dry tonight. I've got nothing. All I've done the past couple of weeks is paint as much as possible, worry, and try to keep up with the minimum I can in the rest of my life. My library books are overdue, and since there are 11 of them, I can't renew them online; I wouldn't let a pig eat off my kitchen floor; I can hardly keep my eyes open as I write this; and to top it off, I sliced open my pinky finger on my right hand last night as I was cutting up fresh pumpkins, and I'm finding it difficult to type with a bandage on my finger.

I'm done whining though. In response to my pumpkin injury, I'm going to re-post part of a post from 2 years ago about how to process a fresh pumpkin for pumpkin pie

November 22, 2011

.... I always make my pumpkin pies from scratch, with fresh pumpkins. I remember the first year I wanted to do it. LtColEx and I had been married maybe a year or two, so I was 19 or 20. I asked my grandma to show me how to make the pumpkin puree for fresh pies. And to my surprise, she refused. "No," she said. "I will not cook a pumpkin with you."

What? This is my grandmother who taught me how to knit, crochet, garden, pluck chickens, make pie crust and cinnamon rolls, and fresh whipped cream. This is the grandmother who flew all the way to Sacramento from Iowa holding a paper bag full of fresh dill from her garden so she could teach me how to make dill pickles while she visited. She got a lot of funny looks when she got off the plane holding a paper bag with green herbs flopping out of the top. She knew how to do everything herself, and I wanted to know too.

"Why not? Don't you know how?"

"Of course I know how. I did it for years. And then they started selling it cans and I swore I'd never do it again. I don't want to mess with stringy, slimy pumpkin when I can buy it in a can."

"You're serious? You won't even tell me how to do it?"

"No, buy it in a can and be happy with it." And that was that.

Except that I went to the library and found a book that showed me how to do it. And I've done it every year since, because once you've eaten a fresh pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin is no longer palatable. And a pie from the grocery store is simply a plastic substitution.

It's really not that hard. My grandma didn't have a food processor, and she probably only had access to field pumpkins, the kind you make jack-o-lanterns with. Although I've used both, I try to buy sugar pumpkins that aren't as wet and stringy.

So if you want to make your own real pumpkin pies, here's how you do it. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Then prepare the pumpkin. First cut it in half and slip the seeds out of the pulp. You can just drag them out with your fingers into a colander. Wash and then put them aside.

Scrape out the pulp and cut the pumpkin into slices and then pieces. Put the pieces into a big pot, cover with water and boil them until they're soft through. They'll look like this.

Dump the pieces into a colander and let them drain and cool for 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, pour some olive oil on a baking sheet. Add the pumpkin seeds and spread them around so they're mostly in one layer. Bake the seeds for 10 minutes or so. Check them. If they're getting brown, stir them around and cook another couple of minutes. If they're already too brown, take them out. Give them a stir, and then season them with whatever you like. I just use salt, but you can sprinkle on garlic salt, rosemary, cayenne, whatever flavor you want. If you're going to put them in a covered container, let them cool completely.

Now back to the pumpkin puree. When the chunks are cool enough to handle, scrape the meat off each one with a tablespoon into a bowl. If your pumpkin is soft enough, you can just mush it up and use it that way. If you used a stringier pumpkin or didn't cook it as long, run it through the food processor to puree the lumps out of it. A few lumps don't hurt though and actually give better flavor.

That's it! Store the puree in the refrigerator in a sealed bowl if you're going to use it within a week. If not, freeze it in baggies in whatever size your recipe calls for.

Try it! I'll bet you won't eat canned pumpkin again.


  1. I too love fresh pumpkin and I bake mine, I never boil anything because it removes flavor and nutrients, but I am sure your pie is fantastic. I especially love this pumpkin soup that I have been making with Yukon Gold potatoes and Heavenly ham, yuuuum!

    1. Sounds delicious. Smoky and creamy at the same time.

  2. Just finishing up boiling the pumpkins and getting ready to roast the seeds.

    1. I'm not roasting seeds this year. A friend asked me to save them for her, and I'm just as happy not to have one more thing to do.