Pumpkins make the holidays

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wow, I wrote about Halloween way to early this month. When I woke up Tuesday morning and felt the chill in the air I finally felt like it was time to get ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now that I don’t have to make Halloween costumes at the last minute I think about other ways to celebrate. A key ingredient to successful Halloween decorations and a Thanksgiving meal are pumpkins.

First of all if you haven’t bought a pumpkin I have to tell you that you should go by Jefferson Street Methodist Church. They have a pumpkin patch set up there this year with all sizes of pumpkins. I happen to know that a fresh shipment was “grown” Monday evening. The proceeds from the patch are going to the pre school, so you can get your pumpkin and help a good cause.

The first thing that comes to mind is to make your Halloween jack o’lantern. Most people just cut open the top, scoop out the seeds and move on to the carving. But wait, did you know that you are throwing away a wonderful snack? Back up a step to the part where you are scooping out all of the seeds and this time place them in a bowl. Cleaning out a pumpkin is a lot like a cantaloupe and there will be sort of a stringy membrane in there with the seeds. That needs to be thrown away. But rinse and drain the seeds and use the recipe below.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons Canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Let pumpkin seeds dry on paper towels. Toss cleaned pumpkin seeds with oil and salt; spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 250 degree oven for about 1 hour, or until the pumpkin seeds are dry, stirring occasionally. These are so good.

When you are standing in that pumpkin patch looking at all of those wonderful pumpkins and thinking about how you can’t possible use that many carved pumpkins, here is another thought. Instead of using canned pumpkin this year for your pies and cakes prepare your own. Pumpkin puree can be frozen so it is really easy to have on hand.

Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and stringy part. Then cut into quarters or smaller and peel the sections. Place in a large pot with a little salt and boil for about 20 to 30 minute or just until tender. Then mash with a potato masher, your food processor or a food mill. Just remember this is pure pumpkin puree not pie filling from a can so it doesn’t have spices or sugar in it. A 5 pound pumpkin will yield about 4 1/2 cups of cooked pumpkin. One 16 ounce can of pumpkin only yields about 2 cups of mashed pumpkin. Then you can freeze the puree in 1 cup portions so you can use it easily. Especially in pumpkin pie.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons molasses

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Pour into your pie shell and bake for ten minutes. Then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or just until the center is set. Let cool and serve with whipped cream.

Christina Hall can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.