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Step by step: How to prepare fresh pumpkin

Nov 10th, 2010 | Category: Skills

by Grow Northwest

For many people, pumpkin pie is a definite dessert on the holiday table. Preparing fresh pumpkin for baking is easy and tastes better than anything ever coming out of a can.
Pumpkins are not only tasty, but also nutritious. The bright orange color (like carrots) is evident that this piece of produce is full of beta carotene, an important antioxidant that is converted into Vitamin A when ingested, contributing to one’s overall health. In addition, pumpkin is rich in fiber, vitamins C and E, potassium and magnesium.

For those new to fresh pumpkin in the kitchen, not all varieties are good to use. The best to prepare are small to medium-sized sugar pumpkins, which offer dark orange-colored flesh perfect for baked goods or using in a soup, smoothie or pudding. You can use Cinderella or even some Jacko-lantern varieties as well, however the taste does not compare to the sweet, flavorful sugar pumpkins.

Fresh pumpkins can be prepared by baking or boiling. Whichever method you choose to prepare the pumpkin, the first steps are to cut the sugar pumpkin in half and get rid of the stem and stringy pulp inside. (The seeds can be saved for roasting, which makes a delicious and nutritious seasonal treat. Seeds contain vitamin E, iron and other nutrients.)
If using the oven, at this point you will preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take the two pumpkin halves and place them into a shallow baking dish, covered with foil. Bake the pumpkin for approximately 90 minutes, or until tender. Smaller pumpkins may take less time. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and let cool. You will then scoop out the orange flesh and puree or mash it.

If you choose to boil the pumpkin, take your two halves of cleaned pumpkin and cut into chunks. (You can choose to leave the skins on or remove them. (Note that when boiled during the next step, the skins will separate from the flesh, but if you boil the skinless chunks you can remove the entire batch when done and not worry about separating the skins. It’s your preference.)

Next, using a large saucepan, place your pumpkin chunks into water and bring to a boil, covered. Cook the pumpkin until tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove the pieces and let cool. Then puree or mash the flesh.

Most recipes call for one to two cups of pumpkin puree; one sugar pumpkin will yield more than two cups. You can freeze the remaining pumpkin, or place it in a sealed container for several days in the fridge for use in another recipe. You can also can the batch, leaving a half-inch of headspace.

If the pumpkin seems watery, drain it with a strainer to create a thicker puree. Pumpkin can also be pressed through a sieve as needed for silky or smooth desserts, such as custard.

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