Blog Site Discontinued June 23, 2017

Welcome. This blog site, healthy eating and food safety, has been discontinued as of June 23, 2017. I look forward to your comments and feedback regarding use of this tool to disseminate educational information.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Can You Eat the Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Sitting on Your Porch?

Can You Eat the Jack–O-Lantern Pumpkin Sitting on Your Porch?
Its fall and thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and to Halloween jack-o-lanterns. But, can you use a pumpkin for BOTH a jack-o-lantern AND for eating?

Pumpkin pie tastes great this time of year and is also an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.

There is a difference between pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins.

Pie pumpkins, also called sugar pumpkins, are smaller in shape than the monstrous pumpkins you'd find at your typical pumpkin patch. Pie pumpkins are commonly found in the grocery store in the produce section or at farm stands. This small round pumpkin is packed full of flesh that makes it a good choice for cooking. The pulp also has a better texture (less grainy) and is sweeter.

Carving pumpkins
In contrast to the flesh-packed pie pumpkin, carving pumpkins, commonly referred to as jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, were designed to make it easier to, well, carve. Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins have a thinner shell and typically have less flesh (or pumpkin guts) on the inside. The flesh is grainer and stringy. The inside of a carving pumpkin tends to contain more water than pie pumpkins

Here are some tips from the University of Illinois on preparing a pumpkin for food preparation. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with tap water before cutting into the pumpkin. Spread newspaper over your work surface. Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. If you are planning to roast the pumpkin seeds, smash the pumpkin against a hard surface to break it open. If not, cut in half with a sharp knife. In any case, remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass.

Below are some ways to cook the pumpkin.
Boiling/Steaming Method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup.
Oven Method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin; cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender.
Microwave Method: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.

Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0°F for up to one year.

Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.

Use 1 1/2 pounds of skin-on, raw pumpkin to yield 2 cups of mashed.


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