Fall is a beautiful and splendid time to decorate with so many colored leaves, chrysanthemums, and pumpkins! Many of my neighbors have small pumpkins, or carved Jack-o-lanterns out of the larger pumpkins sitting by their entryway. I wonder if they know they can reuse them? I asked my neighbor if I could have her pumpkins when she was done. She said, “Yes, but why?”
“I’m going to make pies; those little ones make the best ones,” I said.
She replied, “I make mine out of a can.”
It is easier to buy a can of pumpkin from the store, and most people may do it that way, but the flavor and freshness of fresh pumpkin is missing. Yes, it does take a bit of work, but it is so worth the time and effort in the middle of the winter!
Smaller Pumpkins Recommended
Small Sugar Pumpkins.
Large Jack-o-lantern pumpkins work for pies, but I’ve found the smaller pumpkins, about the size of a baseball or melon, are best. They are sweeter, too. To keep the sweetness and texture of the large pumpkins and prevent them from becoming stringy or dry, add a half stick of margarine and 1/2 cup brown sugar to the inside of the pumpkin before baking.
Preparation Lessons Learned
My first experience with pumpkins was rough — very rough. I gutted the huge pumpkin and then sawed my way through to cut it into slices. I cut off the rind and then chunked slices into pieces to boil in water until softened. Wow — talk about hard stuff to work with. There is a much easier way.
After removing strings and seeds, put the whole pumpkin into a large baking pan. Add a small amount of water to the pan and 1/8 inch of water inside the pumpkin. Add brown sugar and butter to make large ones sweeter. Bake the pumpkin 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees (or until a fork can easily go into the pumpkin).
Scooped pumpkin, save seeds for roasting.
Let the baked pumpkin cool and then scoop out pieces to put into a blender. Puree to a smooth consistency for pie or other pumpkin recipes. It is best to puree the pumpkin rather than mash it. Add water if necessary to help it blend, but then strain the puree through cheesecloth or a sieve to keep pies from being too watery.
I recommend freezing your puree in 1-gallon freezer bags. It can be stored flat in the freezer, saving room. Ladle 1 to 2 cups of pumpkin into freezer bags or containers and freeze! A recipe generally calls for 1 to 2 cups. By having bags pre-measured, it makes recipes easier to fix.
Puree pumpkin in blender or processor.
The USDA does not recommend canning mashed or pureed pumpkin. I learned that messy lesson one year!
Fresh Pumpkin Filling for Two Large Pies
Fresh pumpkin pie
(My mother’s recipe from the 1940s)
• 2 cups pumpkin puree
• 2 cups evaporated milk
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 1/3 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 1/3 teaspoons ginger
• 1 teaspoon cloves
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 2/3 teaspoon salt
• 3 eggs
Beat eggs until light-colored. Add pumpkin and evaporated milk and blend. Stir in spices. (3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice may be substituted for the spices, but doesn’t have the same flavor. Multiply the above ingredients by the number of cups of puree.) Pour into unbaked pie shells. Bake at 350 degree for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Yields two large pies. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!