How does a pumpkin get from being a decoration to one of the best ingredients you can keep in your freezer?
- First of all, pick out the right kind of pumpkin. Our neighbor Frank Myers used to share what he called cheese pumpkins with us. They were such a pale orange they were almost white, and when you cut them open, they smelled like sugar.
Same with the gorgeous French heirloom (also known as Fairytale because it looks like Cinderella’s fairy godmother could easily turn it into a carriage). I bought at Howard Family Farms last week. After a year of weight-lifting, I could almost carry it to the car without staggering. I just froze 23 cups of pureed pumpkin from it; there was probably more, but I’m tired!
My friend Chris tells me that her mother-in-law from the mountains of North Carolina only baked with the orange Candy Roaster. You can see all of these on the internet or ask the farmers — they know what they’ve raised.
If you use jack o’-lantern pumpkins for eating, you’re liable to find them too dry and not sweet enough. This Fairytale pumpkin flesh is so sweet the pieces caramelized during oven roasting. When you taste it after cooking, you’d think you had already added sugar!
2) Heat your oven to 375°. A giant pumpkin like mine needed one hour at this temperature. When it collapses, it’s done. Let it cool enough for handling.
3) Cut the pumpkins into sections — halves for a small pumpkin. Stoic the Vast needed a chainsaw to cut ours into eighths. Get rid of the seeds and strings. I don’t care what your hippie children tell you about roasting pumpkin seeds, this makes such an icky mess that even the birds won’t eat them.
4) Spread pumpkin pieces in roasting pans. Spray pans and pieces with cooking spray. I like to think this keeps pumpkin moist.
5) Once you’ve cooked your pumpkin and can pick up the pieces without third-degree burns, cut away and dispose of the rind. Cut the pumpkin meat into chunks and puree them in a food processor or blender. Freeze in quantities you’ll use in recipes, like 2- or 3- or 4-cup containers.
6) Clean up the kitchen. You’ll have spatters of orange everywhere. Relax with a glass of wine and think about pumpkin pies and breads to come.