With the economy as shaky as it has been lately, many people are preserving their own food by canning or freezing. Whether you grow your own vegetables and fruit or purchase them at the peak of the season, when they are cheaper and on sale, it just makes sense to fill your shelves and freezers.
When you are looking for the best price on the perfect pumpkin to carve into a Jack O Lantern this year, consider stretching your dollar further by cooking it after Halloween. This suggestion is only for pumpkins that have been newly carved within a day or two before Halloween. It also needs to be kept outside in a cool spot until ready to cook. We have all seen those hairy, drippy monsters, that is not what you want to cook. If that timeline won’t work, then take advantage of all the great prices and buy some just for cooking. The breads, pies, soups and casseroles these monstrous gourds can produce, give you a wonderful savings to your family’s food budget. If they haven’t been cut open, you could decorate with them clear through Thanksgiving.
Start by cleaning the stringy membrane and seeds out of the pumpkin. Go ahead and discard the membrane, but save the seeds. The meat is the wall of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into chunks and peel. It is easier to peel a chunk than a large section of pumpkin. Place the pumpkin chunks in a pot and cover with water. Boil as you would potatoes. Pumpkin is harder than potatoes, so it will take a little longer. You will need to experiment with time. Cook the pieces until they are tender. Drain the water off the pumpkin and puree in a food processor or blender. Most recipes call for two cups of pumpkin (that is how much is in a can at the store). Freeze two cups in plastic containers or freezer bags.
Rinse the seeds well and place them in a pot. Cover the seeds with water and add lots of salt. Boil the seeds for about 45 minutes. Add water if needed. Drain the seeds and spread them on a cookie sheet. Since the salt has been boiled into the seeds, there is no need to salt them again. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, checking and stirring constantly. As the pumpkin seeds dry out, they will crackle and pop. Taste them occasionally, to check for desired crunch. Remove the finished seeds from the oven and allow them to cool. Serve as a delicious snack. Roast unsalted seeds, in the same manner, to use in baking recipes that call for nuts for a little added twist.
Here is a favorite recipe to get you started.
Beat together 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups pumpkin and 3 teaspoons vanilla. If you want to add some twist on your recipe, you can visit this page. This will give you more helpful tips so you can prepare the food nicely.
Mix in 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 teaspoons cinnamon.
Add a 1/2 cup of chopped pumpkin seeds, nuts or raisins, if desired.
Spray two loaf pans with cooking oil. Mix a 1/2 cup sugar and 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Dust the loaf pan sides and bottom with the sugar mixture. Reserve the excess.
Pour the pumpkin bread batter into the loaf pans and sprinkle with the reserved sugar mixture.
Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Bread is done when a knife inserted in the bread comes out clean.