Saturday, October 8, 2016

Don’t Waste That Halloween Pumpkin

In the wake of rumors that canned pumpkin isn’t really pumpkin at all, but squash in thin disguise (see here for the story, but know that the story is  actually a bit more complicated), it’s time to talk about how to make real pumpkin foods.  I’m not taking sides in this dispute but I’ve long been a proponent of preparing your own pumpkin from the indisputably real thing for baking.

It’s really not hard, though it does take a bit more time and effort than using a can opener to access a bunch of the fake stuff. I normally buy several nice pumpkins in early to mid-October for decorations. I tend to leave them as is in my displays, but if you want to decorate, use paint or markers. Don’t carve them until the day before Halloween and they’ll keep in good shape unless you happen to live in places where nothing survives outside for very long.

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I carve mine on Halloween and put candles in them to create classic jack-o-lanterns. Once the festivities are over, though, I bring them inside and wash them off.  The next day, I cut them into quarters or eighths, depending on the size, and put the pieces on baking sheets lined with aluminum foil. I bake them at 450 F (a very hot oven), skin-side down, for an hour or until a fork slides easily into the flesh.
Let it cool, scrape off any of the stringy stuff from the top and peel the flesh away from the tough skin. I put the flesh in a blender and puree it until reasonably smooth, then measure it into one- or two-cup containers.

I use some of it to make several loaves of pumpkin bread and a batch or two of pumpkin muffins and freeze the rest.  Here’s my favorite pumpkin bread recipe:

Pumpkin Bread
3 cups self-rising flour (or 3 cup plain flour + 4-5 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt)
3 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 cup melted butter

Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
Form a well in the center and eggs, pumpkin, and butter.
Stir until moistened.
Pour into 2 well-greased loaf pans
Bake at 350 degrees, 45 – 50 minutes. 


  1. Nice piece and very helpful. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes and your description of how to use fresh pumpkin was helpful. You made it sound easy! My husband (the gardener of the two of us) grows them and is always wanting me to cook with them but I've been intimidated. I'll be sure and try this fall--after Halloween!

  2. Hi Karen--
    Thank you for your pumpkin bread recipe and for sharing your carving secrets. I'll try them later this month!

  3. I confess I'm one of those who reaches for a can when I make my Thanksgiving pies. Your pumpkin bread recipe sounds good, though. Maybe I get brave and give "real" pumpkin a try.

  4. The Czechs claim full responsibility for pumpkin everything. When I lived in Wales and pumpkins disappeared from the fresh produce lane the day after Hallowe'en, I used butternut squash to make my pumpkin pies - remarkably similar flavor.