Pumpkins Have Many Uses
In addition to making jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins also are an excellent source of nutrients. They contain large amounts of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant.
Current research indicates a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and protects against diseases, including heart disease. Antioxidants also offer protection against some degenerative aspects of aging.
Whole pumpkins can be prepared to use in recipes. Start by working on a clean surface. Wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water before cutting to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin.
Prepare a pumpkin to make pumpkin pie. Remove the stem with a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half to make it easier to scoop out the seeds and scrape away the stringy mass. Rinse in cold water. If using an oven or microwave, leave the pumpkin cut in half. For cooking in a large pot, cut the pumpkin into large chunks.
Cook the pumpkin pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup.
If using an oven, place pumpkin pieces cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until fork tender. If using a microwave, place pumpkin pieces cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes and then check for doneness. Continue cooking at 1 to 2 minute intervals if necessary.
Wait to handle pumpkin pieces until they are cool. Remove the peel using a small sharp knife. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, strainer or potato masher to form a puree. Do not let the cooked pumpkin set at room temperature longer than two hours.
Pumpkin puree freezes well. Measure cooled puree into one cup portions. Place in zip closure bags or rigid freezer containers. Leave a half inch of space at the top of the containers. Label and date each container. Freeze for up to one year. Use the puree in recipes or substitute in recipes calling for canned pumpkin in the same amount.
Can pumpkins that have been carved and used for jack-o-lanterns also be used for making pumpkin pie? No, it is better to use a fresh pumpkin for making pie. But instead of carving your pumpkin for Halloween, why not try drawing a scary face on it with a marker then process it after the holiday for cooking.