Can you eat your jack-o-lantern?

Learn more about how to get the most out of your pumpkins – a symbol of Halloween and fodder for your favorite desserts.

It’s October and time for Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins have become the national symbol for Halloween and can serve double duty and for your favorite pumpkin desserts, too. To do this, the pumpkins can be drawn on but not carved.

Here are some tips on preparing a pumpkin for those special pumpkin desserts:

Clean your pumpkin
Always work on a clean surface and use clean utensils. Before cutting the pumpkin, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water and a vegetable brush. Cleaning the pumpkin will remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.

Preparing your pumpkin
Using a sharp knife, or pumpkin carver, remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop the seeds out and scrape away all of the stringy mass and rinse in cold water.

Cook pumpkin any one of the following ways:

  • Boiling or steaming method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks and rinse them in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. 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. Follow the steps outlined below in Preparing the Puree.
  • Oven method: Place pumpkin cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until fork tender. Then follow the procedure outline below in “preparing the puree.”
  • Microwave method: Place pumpkin cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes and then check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at one to two minute intervals until fork-tender. Continue as outlined below in “preparing the puree.”

Preparing the puree
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor, food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.

Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze pumpkin, transfer the hot pumpkin into shallow pans to speed up the cooling process. Place the pans, containing the hot pumpkin, in ice cold water and stir. Don’t let your cooked pumpkin set at room temperature longer than two hours. Measure the cooled puree into the amounts you need for a recipe and place it in ridged freezer containers or freezer bags, leaving ½-inch headspace. Label, date, and freeze at 0 degrees F for up to one year for best quality.

You can enjoy your jack-o-lantern all winter long when you preserve it by pureeing and freezing it for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bread pudding and the list goes on and on for delectable pumpkin desserts to be enjoyed.

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