Monday, November 14, 2011

Method for cooking down Pumpkin

Hello again.  Been a while, been busy, and thought I'd write something unrelated to systems administration.

If you find this helpful, leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!

One of the things that has always frustrated me around Halloween was throwing out the pumpkin that was carved just a night or two ago.  If it's a reasonable size to carve, then you're talking about throwing out at least a couple of cans for each pumpkin.

If you've ever tried to cook pumpkin before, you know the amount of work involved, scraping out the insides (and getting seeds if you enjoy eating them), then cutting up the pumpkin to cook it, and trying to find a way to get the peel off without burning your fingers (I really hate that part), and then trying to turn it into puree.  So after trying several different things, here's what my wife and I have come up with.

This method minimizes the amount of work you'll have to put in, as well as any burns you might receive from handling hot pumpkin.

Stats for one pumpkin (reasonable carving size)
Total cook time: 2 hours
Total prep time: 1.5 hours w/ seeds, 1 hour w/o seeds
Total seeds: 1 cup (approx)
Total pumpkin yield: 1 quart

Step one: Cut pumpkin in half, seed, and scrape out stringy insides.

yes, getting the seeds can be a bit of a slimy mess, but if you enjoy eating them like I do, it's worth it.  For about 15 mins of work, you end up with about a cup of seeds per pumpkin, and they're easier to get out than sunflower seeds.

If you've carved your pumpkin, you've already gone through the process of cleaning out the inside, so just cut the pumpkin in half.

Step Two: Cut pumpkin into strips no more than 1" thick.

I find that holding the pumpkin with the outer shell towards you and pushing down on the handle end of the knife works well.  I also use the largest knife we have when doing this work.  Also, cutting a strip single that has the stem and the stub where the flower was (bottom) make it easy to remove these.

Step Three: With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer shell.

When I finally thought to do this, I was surprised how easy it was.  It's a bit more like peeling carrots than potatoes, and removes the shell quickly without much effort.  You'll want the peeler at an angle, rather than the whole blade flat on the pumpkin, or it will be harder to get started; once started, it's pretty easy to get under the shell.

Step Four: In a 6 qt pot, put in 1/2 cup water (enough to cover the bottom about 1/4"), and place the pumpkin in.  Cook covered for 1 hour over med-low heat.  Pumpkin is cooked when it cuts easily with a fork.

This helps to remove the water.  You'll start with 1/2 cup, but you might have to drain it a few times to avoid having it boil over.  You many also want to cut it into smaller pieces to get it into the pot (4-6" strips).

Step Five: Pack the pumpkin in a blender, mashing out as much water as possible.  Then, puree the pumpkin.

You can actually fit 1 whole pumpkin in a blender that holds a quart.  It is preferable to have a blender that also has a dispenser on the bottom, since this is the easiest way to get the pureed pumpkin out.  I use a potato masher to press the pumpkin in.  Also, you'll want to get as much water out now as you can, before you puree the pumpkin.

Step Six: Cook puree uncovered over med-low heat to remove water, stirring occasionally, until it makes a paste about the consistency of semi-thick oatmeal. (about 1 hour)

Your pumpkin is now ready to use in recipes (pie, scones, oatmeal, cookies, butter, etc.)

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