Pumpkin Cooking Tips!
When you think of fall, there is always one veggie that comes to mind: pumpkin! This fun orange ingredient can be used in desserts, dinners, and sides. You can carve it into a jack-0-lantern and even roast the seeds! But how do you work with pumpkin? We’ll teach you how to harvest, store, and cook your pumpkin, along with a couple of other helpful hints! Enjoy!
When harvesting pumpkins, the stems should be cut so you have a 4 or 5 inch stem. Pumpkins without stems do not store well, so it’s important to pick them up from the bottom not by the stem.
Pumpkins should be harvested when mature and the rind is hard, but before night temperatures fall below 40 degrees. Don’t harvest when the pumpkins are wet, and don’t allow them to become wet after harvesting. Any of these things will cause them to rot more quickly. After harvesting, allow the pumpkins to “cure” if possible. This is where they sit for 10 days or so in a temperature around 80 degrees and a high humidity of 80%. This can sometimes be done in the field if it’s warm enough, or near a furnace. The pumpkins will last longer if cured first.
Afterwards, store them at 50-55 degrees in a location where the humidity is about 50-70% such as a basement or a garage. Don’t store the pumpkins near apples or allow them to sit directly on a concrete floor.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree
You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has been carved and sitting out for several days. To bake a fresh 6-7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 1 1/2-2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt. To freeze pumpkin puree, put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies.
Prolonging the Life of a Carved Pumpkin
After all of your effort carving that expert pumpkin, wouldn’t you want it’s lifespan to be at least through Halloween? One technique for making your pumpkin last longer is to coat all cut surfaces of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly immediately after carving. This includes a light coating of the entire inside of the pumpkin. If you can’t do the whole inside, at least try to coat the design that you’ve cut. The petroleum jelly acts as a barrier to seal in the pumpkins internal moisture to help slow down the dehydration process of the pumpkin. You can use a finger to coat the eyes, nose and mouth but you may want to use a paper towel with jelly on it to coat the inside. It’s less messy that way. There are also spray pumpkin preserver products out there if you can find them at a craft store.
Sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice inside your jack-o-lantern to give the air a spice aroma!
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