Spooked by Pumpkin

Relax, cooking with fresh pumpkin is easy.
Jim Fobel

An orange tide recently washed into supermarkets. Fresh pumpkins flank the doors, spill out of produce bins, and stand information along the aisles, waiting to be taken home and carved―or cooked.

Yes, this bounty is good for more than just jack-o'-lanterns. And as for taste, fresh pumpkin adds a whole new depth of flavor to your recipes.

Pumpkin Tips
Select a pumpkin with tough skin. To test, apply gentle pressure with your fingernail. If you can make a mark, the pumpkin isn't ready for cooking.

The best varieties for cooking are milk, cheese, and sugar. You can cook a small "jack-o'-lantern" pumpkin, but it won't have as much flesh as a cooking pumpkin.

Never cook a pumpkin that's been carved. The cut flesh is ideal for bacteria growth.

Store fresh, cooked pumpkin in the refrigerator for about five days, or in the freezer for up to six months.

Canned pumpkin is fast, easy, and has all the nutrients of fresh, but doesn't compare when it comes to flavor.

When You Need Fresh Raw Cubed Pumpkin

Many of our recipes call for cubed peeled pumpkin. Here's the best way to cut, clean, and cube a pumpkin.

Step 1: Cut straight down to one side of stem with a large, heavy knife.

Step 2: Clean out pumpkin halves, spooning out the seeds and stringy pulp.

Step 3: Place pumpkin half, cut side down, on a cutting board. Using a downward motion with the knife, remove the peel in small sections.

Step 4: Cut peeled pumpkin into wedges, then hold wedges firmly while cutting into cubes. Proceed with recipe.

When You Need Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Use this simple method when you want the pulp mashed or pureed, keeping in mind that 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin yields 3 cups of mashed cooked pumpkin. Fresh cooked pumpkin purée will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about 5 days, or in the freezer for up to six months.

Step 1: Place whole, uncut pumpkin on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes or until tender, turning baking sheet occasionally. Remove from oven, and cool.

Step 2: Next, peel the pumpkin. After you've baked the pumpkin and allowed it to cool thoroughly, you should be able to remove the peel with little effort.

Step 3: To clean the pumpkin, remove the seeds and stringy pulp with a large spoon. Then process the flesh in a food processor or by hand (using a potato masher) until smooth.