Before you send those decorative pumpkins to the compost bin, consider roasting them for soups or pies.
With Thanksgiving this week, you’re probably realizing you’ll soon have to swap out your fall decorations for holiday lights and garland. Before you send those decorative pumpkins to the compost bin, consider roasting them for soups or pies.
Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A as well as many other vitamins and minerals. It’s also low in calories and a great source of antioxidants.
While the traditional “jack-o-lantern” variety from your youth are great for carving and roasting seeds, they’re bred to have relatively thin flesh and large cavities. The numerous heirloom varieties that gained in popularity have much more flesh per pumpkin with small, concentrated seed pods at the center of the fruit. In addition, their flavor profiles are much more complex with an inherent sweetness and characteristics reminiscent of baking spices.
One of the best varieties for baking is the “Blue Doll” pumpkin (sometimes confused with the fairytale pumpkin). Both are medium sized and pale in color with deep grooves that remind you of a cartoon pumpkin. The difference is the fairytale is apale orange while the blue doll (as the name implies) is a pale bluish green. Some people prefer sugar pumpkins (small, orange, and relatively smooth) or white pumpkins. If you’re unsure, it’s best to ask someone at the pumpkin farm or produce department when you are making your purchase.
To roast, start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Wash the pumpkin off well and towel dry. I simply cut my pumpkins in half to roast. It takes a bit longer but more pieces equal more surface area which tends to get dried out and toughen in the oven. Remember to be careful while cutting. These pumpkins are a lot more solid and require a sharp knife and a steady hand. I like to snap the stem off first and use a sharp chef’s knife. Start at the top and follow a groove down one side to the cutting surface. Next, turn the pumpkin around and do the same thing in the opposite groove. Once you extract the knife (carefully) you should be able to gently pry the two halves apart.
Scoop out the seeds and try to scrape out as much of the stringy, fibrous tissue as possible. Lightly coat the flesh with olive oil including inside the cavity. Turn the pumpkin over, flesh side down, onto a foil lined baking sheet and pierce the skin several times with a paring knife before placing in the oven.
Depending on size, you’ll need to roast for 1 to 1.5 hours rotating the tray once during cooking. You’ll know it’s done when the paring knife slides into the flesh with minimal resistance. Roast pumpkin is pretty forgiving so you can over-roast to some degree without a problem. Remember also that you’ll still likely “cook” the pumpkin in any pie or soup recipe so if it’s a little underdone that’s ok too. Just be sure to cook completely when you’re preparing your final dish.
The only thing left to do now is to let the pumpkin cool and scoop out the delicious goodness with a large spoon. You can puree now or leave in pieces. The nice thing about pureeing is that you can easily portion the pumpkin out (I find two-cup portion to be the most versatile) and freeze for later. The best way to freeze is in Ziploc bags with as much of the air removed as possible. This will keep the pumpkin fresh and avoid freezer burn for up to a year.
Enjoy your delicious pumpkin and happy cooking.