Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peter Peter Pumpkin Cooker

This past October I got 4 beautiful pie pumpkins from my Mom. I had never in my life cooked a pumpkin but I was determined to at least give it a go. As always, I turned to my trusty Google search bar and began looking. I found out it is actually rather easy and even fun. The pumpkins store well, so if you find them on sale, grab up a few! I got mine in October and I cooked up the last one in early February and it still had lots of life in it! Store in a cool, dry place. Mine were on the floor in a corner in the kitchen for most of that time.

Now how to cook the lovely!

Step One: Pick a Pumpkin and prepare the oven

My pumpkin of choice!

You want one that is as bug bite and blemish free as possible, but don't get carried away. It doesn't have to be perfect. Wash outside of chosen pumpkin, removing all the dirt and grime. No soap, just cool or warm water. As for the oven, you are going to need to remove all but one rack and set it to the lowest setting. Then preheat the oven to 350' on bake.

Step Two: Cut open and clean the pumpkin
A big spoon, a good cutting board and a sharp knife (I used my butcher knife) are all the tools you need for this part. Cut around the pumpkin, being careful not to hack into your thumb. When you have the pumpkin in two halves, scoop out the seeds and most of the "stringy" stuff with your spoon like you would when carving a jack-o-lantern. Then cut a hole in the top around the stem, nothing too big, maybe two inches across. Then do the same to the bottom. These will be the vent holes when cooking.

Step Three: Place in pan and cook

The cooked pumpkin after placing it on a wire rack.

I used two 8 inch round cake pans but any pan that has about 2 inch sides will do. A couple 9X9 inch square pans, a couple 9X13 inch pans, some deep dish pie plates, what ever you have on hand! Spray the bottom your chosen pan and all cut edges of the pumpkin with cooking spray. Place pumpkin *cut side down* in the pan. Then you are going to add water about 1 inch deep around and in the pumpkin. I find the easiest way to do this without spilling water everywhere (trust me on this one!) is to fill a large measuring cup with water, open the oven door, place the pans with the pumpkin in it on the rack, then pour the water in the hole in the top and around the outside. Go slow! Once you have about an inch of water, push the rack in, close the door and bake! Bake at 350' for 45 minutes to an hour. When you can poke into the skin with a fork with little effort, the pumpkin is done. I have found that older pumpkins take a little longer.

Step Four: Cool and scoop

Beginning to scoop the flesh out.

The rind/skin after all the flesh is removed.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven carefully and pour some of the water out, preferably in the sink, not on your kitchen floor and feet. Turn the pumpkin halves over onto a wire rack over a cookie sheet, if you have them (if not, just turn them over and leave then in the pan). Cool them till you can comfortably touch the pumpkin without burning yourself. You can let the cool completely if you like, I am just not that patient! Using your trusty big spoon from before, scoop out the "flesh" of the pumpkin, being careful not to get any of the rind/skin. Scoop it out into a big bowl until you have all that orangy goodness.

Step Five: Do the mash!
Ok, so you aren't going to do the Monster Mash (unless you want to, then by all means go ahead)! You are, however, going to mash/puree the pumpkin. There are three basic ways in which to do this. One: scoop amounts into a food processor and whirl till thoroughly pureed. Dump out and repeat till done. Way too much clean up for me! I hardly ever use the food processor! Two: use an old fashioned potato masher or fork or pastry cutter to thoroughly puree it all. This works fine, but I prefer the last method. Three: use your hands! :o) Oh yeah! Nothing better than mashing warm, mushy, slimy pumpkin between your fingers. Ok, so maybe not for everyone but come on! What adult didn't want to do this as a child? In fact, this would be a great time to bring the kiddos into the room to help. Give them a small bowl of it and let them go.

Step Six: Finish up

The mashed pumpkin and the filter lined colander.

Line a large colander with a few layers of cheese cloth, a tea towel or coffee filters. The filters is my method of choice and it has worked great! Dump the mashed pumpkin into the colander and set said colander over the bowl that the mashed pumpkin was just in. Place the two bowls in the fridge over night or for about 8 hours. You can do longer if you need to! This allows extra moisture out of the puree. After the 8 hours, you can use the pumpkin to make pies, breads, cookies, anything recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. I put mine in zip lock baggies in 1 and 2 cup amounts and freeze it (with the baggies laying down so they are flat and store in the deep freezer easier). Label it well, though with the *bright* orange color, how could you not know what it is?
So why cook your own pumpkin when you can just go to the store and buy a can?
~It is cheaper! I can get about 8 cups of pumpkin (that is 4 cans) from one good old gourd.
~It makes your house smell wonderful!
~It's fun!
I will be sure to post some good pumpkin recipes in the future!


  1. I'm excited you started this blog! I look forward to your tips and yummy recipes!

  2. Thanks! I am excited to have started it! I hope you enjoy it!