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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pumpkin ‘N Spice... ‘N Everything Nice!

The Great Pumpkin is sure to visit this area from the looks of some of the pumpkin patches I’ve seen on my way to work.  Those small orange spots are growing fast, adding a lovely stroke of color to garden greenery.

But whether you grow your own, shop for a pumpkin at a patch or at the market, choose one that’s reached full maturity.  It should have a hard, tough rind.  Pass by the ones with sunken or moldy spots, cuts or punctures.  And, if you want to store your prize until it’s time for the Great Pumpkin to arrive, make sure your pumpkin has an attached stem. Then put it in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.  A temperature of 45 to 50 degrees is best.  If it’s not bruised or damaged, it should keep for several months.

There are different varieties for eating and decorating.  Jack-O-Lantern or field pumpkins are usually bred for larger size and are not eating quality.  The varieties used for decorating usually are coarse-grained or have a watery texture.  They are also flat-tasting. In general, the smaller pumpkin varieties are recommended for eating. 

Pumpkin pie lovers like to preserve the pumpkin so it’s ready for pie-making at short notice.  The quickest way to do that is to preserve pumpkin by freezing.
If you’re cooking pumpkin to eat, plan on a pound of fresh pumpkin to yield about one cup cooked.

Freezing results in a better product than canning pumpkin. If you do can pumpkin do not mash or puree it and pressure can it.  If you have any questions call or e-mail me.

When you make pumpkin pie be sure to refrigerate it.  Pumpkin pie is an egg-containing custard so it should be refrigerated as any custard should.

You can freeze pumpkin pie.  Bake the pie frozen not thawed.  Place the pie on a cookie sheet. Use a hot oven temperature of 425ºF for the first 15-20 minutes of baking and then turn down to 350ºF until done. The total baking time will be at least 20 minutes longer than for an unfrozen pie.

An unbaked pumpkin pie can be frozen up to 4 months.  A baked pie can be frozen with some loss of quality, but the safe storage time will be longer (up to 6 months).