Pumpkins have been grown in the Americas for thousands of years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus. There was probably some kind of pumpkin served at the first Thanksgiving Feast.
Pumpkins, gourds, and other varieties of squash are members of the family Cucurbitaceae.
Baking with pumpkins during the holiday season has become a popular tradition. Pumpkin pie is king of the holiday pies.
Freshly baked pumpkin dishes are a delicious delight. It may surprise you that pumpkin is classified as a fruit, not a vegetable. Pumpkin is an excellent source of many nutrients. Pumpkin is rich in minerals like phosphorus, calcium, and iron. The pumpkin is also rich in carbohydrates. It contains vitamin A as well.
Small to medium size pumpkins are best for baking and cooking because they have a finer textured flesh than large pumpkins. Look for heavy pumpkins, and ones that do not have a hollow sound when you thump on them.
To use fresh pumpkin rather than canned pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and cut into small even pieces. The pumpkin can be peeled before or after cooking. Boil the pumpkin until tender and then mash it and use to prepare a variety of pumpkin dishes.
I like to cut the pumpkin in half, place the cut side down on a glass plate, and microwave on high for 20-25 minutes, depending on the pumpkin’s size, until tender. Then I remove the skin and beat the pumpkin in a mixer until smooth (strings will remain on the mixer blades). It’s now ready to use in any recipe.
One cup of raw pumpkin yields about ¾ to one cup of cooked, pureed pumpkin. It takes about 1 ½ to 2 cups of cooked pumpkin for a well-filled 9-inch pie.
When you carve that jack-o-lantern, don’t throw away the seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a delicious, nutritious snack anytime and can be easily prepared in the microwave. See recipe below.
Pumpkin pie usually comes to mind first when the fall pie season arrives. However, pumpkin lends itself to a variety of bread, cookies, pancakes, muffins, butters, and a variety of other sweet treats. Happy Fall!!
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS (in the microwave)
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
- Remove any fiber clinging to pumpkin seeds.
- Wash and drain well.
- Spread seeds in a single layer to dry, stirring occasionally.
- Line a 9-inch pie plate with two layers of paper towels. Sprinkle seeds on the towels.
- Microwave on HIGH 13 -14 minutes or until seeds are dry but still white, stirring every 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Place butter in a 2-cup measure and microwave until melted. Add seeds and salt; stir and coat.
- Serve as a snack.
FRESH PUMPKIN PIE
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 ¾ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cup of fresh pumpkin (cooked and drained)
- Frozen 9-inch-deep pie crust
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Place the oven rack to its lowest position. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prepare fresh pumpkin as directed above. Be sure to drain the pumpkin after cooking. Now you are ready to use the pumpkin in recipes. To prepare filling, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin and stir with a whisk until smooth. Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Bake at 425ºF for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack. To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and beat until blended. Serve with pie. Yield 1 Pie, about 6 -8 pieces.