Friday, September 16, 2011

Just Pumpkin

I freakin love pumpkin. I love pumpkin muffins, I love pumpkin cake, I love pumpkin spice lattes, I love pumpkin seeds, hey, I even love carving pumpkins! But you know what makes pumpkin even better? Not using that canned goop!

Don't get me wrong, the canned stuff isn't bad. It gives you a good flavor, and in general doesn't screw things up too much when you're baking. But anything worth baking is worth baking from scratch, right?

Despite being the beginning of September, Kroger had pumpkins on sale already. $1.29! I mean, you can't get a can for that price! Plus being beginning-of-the-season pumpkins, they were teeny tiny, so I didn't have to worry about too much leftover pumpkin in the freezer. I've had big issues with too much leftover pumpkin...

Anyway, first you gotta get a pumpkin. You can't bake just any pumpkin, look for a pie pumpkin, or a sugar pumpkin. Carving pumpkins are just grown to be big, and grown as quickly as possible, so they have a lower sugar content, and more water. Pie pumpkins are small and have more sugar and flavor. Once you have the pumpkin, getting the goop out is super easy, it just takes a little time. There are two ways; either toss it in the oven, or toss in in a crock pot or rice cooker. I'd tried the oven, but this was my first crack at the rice cooker.

Step one is the gross one, cut it in half (woohoo! I get to play with the giant knife!) and get the goop out. This is the part I'm planing on making my small children do someday. The goop part, not the giant knife. With lots of newspaper on the floor. Anyway, keep the seeds, they're great for roasting (I just tossed mine in a little oil and some salt and popped them in the oven at about 250 for an hour or so, yum!) The rest, once all the goopy grossness is gone, gets chopped up into chunks to get cooked.

The normal way is in the oven, toss the pieces in a pan, cover them with tinfoil, and bake at 350 for about an hour, or until everything gets super squishy. The other way is toss it in a rice cooker or a crock pot with a little water in the bottom (don't  forget the water like I did, you'll get some lovely caramelized pumpkin goop at the bottom!) and turn it on for an hour or so. My rice cooker is teeny and could barely hold all of my little pumpkin, plus it kept automatically shutting off. A little annoying, but it could have been worse.

Once everything is nice and squishy, scoop the goop off the skin of the pumpkin. Normally I toss it in a food processor or a blender, but I don't actually have either down here. No worries, a potato masher and a whisk will get the job done too! The goal is to make your pumpkin look like neon baby food, or radioactive applesauce, whichever you prefer. Either way, the goop doesn't look like a color found in nature! I actually liked the hand-mashed pumpkin better, it was mostly smooth, but still had a little bit of a pumpkiny texture, rather than a super smooth canned texture, tasted fresh out of the garden!

I got just over a cup and a half out of this little pumpkin. The last time, I got about six cups, but three to five is normal for a pie pumpkin in the middle of the season. One of the small cans you get in the grocery store is almost 2 cups.

This stuff freezes really well. Just trust me, don't toss it in a big tupperware and freeze the whole thing, it'll never thaw! I like to divide it up into ziploc baggies with a half a cup in each one. That way, I can grab however much I need and not have to thaw and re-freeze any extra. The pumpkin can be squished flat in the bag, so it will thaw quickly when you need it. I've seen people do the same in gallon bags with two cups in each one too.

Despite it's freaky color, (trust me, it's even weirder in real life) this stuff it tasty! Perfect for pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin scones, and pumpkin pie, and pumpkin fudge, and pumpkin brownies, and pumpkin cookies, I really want to go bake some pumpkin! Good thing I bought a second one!

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