One of our favorite ways to celebrate the coming of Fall is by visiting a Pumpkin Farm either the first or second week in October. Last year we began a new tradition that will probably only be good for another 4-5 years at most because our children are growing so fast. One day they will lose interest in pumpkin farms and my husband and I will be buying them from the Grocery store (insert future sad Stephanie with an empty nest here). Not that that's a bad thing, it just reminds me how quickly kids grow and change. At least we'll have these memories right?! Anyway....
We come out of the pumpkin farm with a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins of different sizes. Not just one jack-o-lantern sized pumpkin for each of us, but as many sizes that we can comfortably fit in our casita. The children (as well as my husband and I) love having them in the house because the children can stack them, roll them, balance, pretend, sit on, stand on, and even get a few science experiments out of them. We talk about the sizes and sort them out from largest to smallest, count them as we empty and fill baskets with the smallest ones, draw faces on some of them, and finally a few days before Halloween we make our jack-o-lanterns out of the largest ones. Some of the ones we keep will last all of Fall in perfect condition! This year I made sure we had enough of the sugar pumpkins because I was on a mission to find good recipes to use them with and enjoy the whole experience as a family tradition.
First things first when talking about pumpkin puree: fresh pumpkin, or canned pumpkin? Decisions, decisions. The answer to this quiestion all depends on what you prefer really. If you don't want to go through the trouble of cleaning, baking, and pureeing your own pumpkin, by all means grab a can or two of pumpkin puree (non seasoned) and everything will turn out perfectly fine. If you love cooking from scratch and don't mind the work, then I would say DO IT! Go out to your grocery store or pumpkin farm and look for the pumpkins that say sugar pumpkins.
I have used larger than sugar sized pumpkins before and the results were average and edible; however, I did notice a slight difference in taste (it was better) when I used the sugar kind. The larger ones tasted a bit more like a plain squash and required more seasoning. A good rule of thumb would be to not go larger than the size of a large honeydew melon.
When you are ready to bake your pumpkin you may want to give it a quick wash before you cut it open. Up to you. I did just cause I know where mine has been and who's been handling it. The change in weather has brought a few colds in our house so I didn't want to take a chance with cross-contamination once I opened it up.
To give you some reference as to how big the one in the picture is, I used a 13"x9" cookie sheet.
Cut it in half, scrape out all the seeds and membrane stringy things, place open side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchement paper and bake in the oven at 350 for about an hour. I have tried baking a pumpkin open side up and it didn't come out right to me. It sort of cooked the top part of the pumpkin which resulted in a thick skin-like layer that was unnessesary and was a bit unevenly cooked. Open side down was best becasue it kept the pumpkin moist throughout and cooked it evenly.
Once you can easily stick a fork through the thickest part, remove the pumpkin halves from the oven and let them cool before you scoop out the meaty part.
Once it's cool enough, scoop all the "meat" out with a spoon and put it all in a large bowl. Bring out your handy dandy hand blender. Oooh a tounge twister! Say that fast 10 times! Handy dandy hand blender, handy dandy hand blender. Sorry, I can be a dork sometimes. Moving on. Blend until it looks like baby food and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. This one in particular made a little over 4 cups of pumpkin puree. Some of it was used immediately for Ice Cream and pumpkin pie. The rest I stored in a mason jar in the fridge for the next recipe (which was literally the next day). Originally I wanted to post a recipe round-up list of the recipes I found that we liked, but instead I'm going to share each one seperately because a lot of time went into each recipe and I feel they all deserve to shine individually. So with that said, go out and get yourself a sugar pumpkin and have it ready for my next pumpkin recipe post.
Happy Pumpkin Hunting!