Friday, November 4, 2011


Get the most use from an ordinary pumpkin
What can you do with a jack-o-lantern that never fulfilled its Halloween destiny? That was what I pondered earlier this week. We bought two rather large orange beauties but then got too busy to carve them in time for Halloween. In the past, I would've just called them autumnal decor and enjoyed them as-is until they started to get squishy. Now I'm thinking what a silly wasteful girl I was. There is so much goodness in these orange orbs... it's almost spooky.

Most folks use sugar pumpkins for their pie-baking etc. Truth be told, I prefer them also. They're smaller and easier to work with as well as being naturally sweeter than their carve-able cousins. They also cost more. The cheapest I found was a buck a pound. Might as well buy the canned purée. But... there is a trick to using jack-o-lantern pumpkins (which are a much better deal) which you'll see in a minute. First things first...

Make it: Big Pumpkin Purée
  1. Be fearless (but careful) and cut the stem end off. Do not be too proud to enlist help if you need it.
  2. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop/scrape out the guts and seeds. Drop the mess into a large bowl. Do not dispose!
  3. Cut each of the pumpkin halves in half, then cut each section in half across the middle. You will have 8 triangular sections. Place the pumpkin pieces on a baking pan or two (depending on how big of a pumpkin you have).
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F and bake the pans of pumpkin pieces for 45 minutes to an hour, or however long it takes to get them tender and starting to brown slightly.
  5. Take the pans out and let sit until cool enough to handle.
  6. Separate the flesh from the skin (sounds appropriately grisly) and cut into chunks.
  7. Purée the chunks in a food processor. With a big pumpkin, you'll have to do this part in batches.
  8. Here Is The Trick Part Of This Treat! The main reason most people don't use jack-o-lantern pumpkins for baking with is that they contain a lot more water than the little sugar-pies. But we're going to fix that... Grab a deep bowl. Set a colander over the bowl. Line the colander with a flour-sack dish towel.
  9. Pour the puréed pumpkin into the lined colander and let it drain 4-8 hours or overnight.
  10. When you're done draining, scoop the (much firmer and denser) purée into freezer bags or other containers suitable for freezing, label it and stash it. Yield: I got 10 cups of purée from my pumpkin. 10 cups!
But Wait... There's More! Act Now And You'll Receive... Bonus Gifts!
Now you're left with what? A bowl of orange-y water and a bowl of slimey goopy stuff with some big seeds in it. Gold, people... this stuff is pure gold.

Eau de Pompion*
I almost tossed the water that drained off the purée, but I stopped myself... yes, it's mostly just water that was stored within the cell walls of the squash, but might it not contain vitamins and other nutrients? I have no idea, but it sounded plausible. Yep, I froze the pumpkin water too. Next time I make bread, soup, smoothie etc., I can replace the water called for with my saved pumpkin water. Good to the last drop. Yield: I got 3 cups of pumpkin water.

Crunchy Snacking and Skincare
That bowl of gloopy-glop is chock full of goodness. Goodness for in your face and on your face. Yep, the pumpkin seeds will become crunchy salty snacks and the goopy guts will make a nutritious facial treatment.

Make it: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  1. Get your strainer back out and place it next to the bowl of glop.
  2. Using your fingers, pull the seeds from the stringy slimy stuff and place them into the strainer.
  3. Rinse the seeds thoroughly under running water, stirring them around until they are mostly not slimy anymore. Let them drain well, then pour the wet seeds onto a kitchen towel to get more of the water off of them. (If your salad spinner is handy, it might work pretty well. Not sure though, I only just now thought of it.)
  4. Heat oven to 400°F.
  5. Dump the mostly dry seeds onto a baking sheet, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir it all around so everything gets distributed.
  6. Roast the seeds for about 15-20 minutes, giving them a stir halfway through. Keep a close eye on them toward the end, they can go from roasty-toasty to totally burnt in the blink of an eye. Take a couple out, let them cool briefly and give them the crunch-test. They shouldn't be chewy.
  7. When they're done, let them cool completely in the pan, then store them in an airtight container.
  8. Yield: each pumpkin is different. I got about a cup and a half from mine.

A Different Kind Of Halloween Mask
There's only one use I know of for pumpkin guts and that's to smear them on my face and sing "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story while my skin becomes soft and smooth. I'm not kidding at all, check out this pumpkin post from Crunchy Betty (there's even a hair mask recipe and lots of other great pumpkin info).

So when all was said and done, I think I got about as much use out of that $3.00 pumpkin as any human could. The best part? We bought two of them! Yep, I'll be doing this all over again. But I think I'll wait til next week...

*Pumpkin: originally from the old French word "pompion", meaning cooked by the sun, or ripe. In modern French, pumpkin is known as citrouille (don't ask me to pronounce that).
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  1. Yay Stephanie! So glad Leslie (Crunchy Betty) linked to your blog. I became an instant fan!

  2. @LisaLise: Aw, thank you!! The feeling is definitely mutual! I always find such great skincare and make-up info on your blog! :)


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