Where I grew up we ate pumpkin as the “other” orange vegetable. Roasted, boiled, mashed, steamed or sautéed, it was served with our main meal alongside potatoes, beans, peas and corn. But then I moved to the US and found that pumpkin here is eaten only as a dessert. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes, even pumpkin ice-cream – always with “pumpkin pie spice” and sugar added. I missed being able to buy pumpkin in the produce department of the grocery store; instead it is found only in cans in the baking aisle.
So when I visited a Farmer’s Market recently and found a vendor selling pumpkins, I grew unaccountably excited. I selected a beautiful pumpkin – the vendor called it a “Cheese Wheel Squash” – and brought it home to cook. This beauty was $5.
First we cut it in half. This is the most difficult part of working with pumpkins because they are large, heavy and tough. HWA started to cut with the largest knife we had available, but added a small hammer to help knock the blade through the pumpkin. In no time it was in half. Scooping the seeds out was easy. I saved them and plan to try to grow my own next year. What we don’t use will be fed to the poultry. Pumpkin seeds are (I’m told) a natural dewormer for birds, but are also a welcome treat for them.
Next we placed it on a cookie sheet, cut half side down, poured water in to a level of about ¼” and put the tray into the 350-degree oven. An hour later a knife sliced easily through the flesh and we removed it from the oven to cool. After cooling only a short time, we scooped the flesh out of its skin and ended up with a large bowl of cooked pumpkin.
The skin that is left will not go to waste. The chickens will happily peck off any remaining pumpkin and in doing so will devour the entire skin as well – the beta-carotene rich pumpkin will help keep the egg yolks the beautiful orange color we prefer. If I didn’t have the chickens the pumpkin skin would go into the compost.
Once all the flesh was removed from the skin, I mashed it with a fork, drained off the pooled liquid (the dogs will think the pumpkin “juice” poured over their kibble is a wonderful treat) and put 1-cup portions into ziploc bags to be frozen. This pumpkin yielded 12 portions – each equivalent to about half a can of commercial pumpkin, for a fraction of the cost of canned pumpkin at the store.
THIS pumpkin will be eaten as a dessert – but the seeds saved from it will – we hope – produce many more next year and I look forward to steaming, mashing, boiling, roasting and sautéing them.