Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the East Coast during August, and rumors circulated that there might be a shortage of pumpkins in other places.
Not to worry.
Central Kentucky farmers have plenty of fresh pumpkins available. But if tackling a three-pound pumpkin isn't for you, then you can pick up a can of pure pumpkin at the supermarket. Meijer public relations manager David Peterson said there is plenty of canned pumpkin available for holiday baking.
It's easy to make a pie using a can of pumpkin purée, but if you want to experience the fresh taste of a locally grown product — and support your neighbors — here's how to cook a whole pumpkin.
The best pumpkin to choose at the patch for cooking is the sugar variety. It remains firm when gently steamed or blanched.
To extract the meat from a pumpkin, cut a slice from the bottom, so the fruit will stand firmly upright, then rotate the pumpkin while you peel away the skin from top to bottom, according to The Perfect Pumpkin by Gail Damerow. Remove the peel with a good potato peeler or a sharp paring knife
Then slice the pumpkin in half and clean out the fibers and seeds. Cut the pumpkin into chunks, then boil it for 15 to 20 minutes or put it in a steamer over boiling water for 30 minutes.
Peeling first is option, though. To roast a unpeeled pumpkin, heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a small (3-pound) whole pumpkin onto an ungreased baking sheet. Poke the top of pumpkin several times to let steam escape while baking. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until fork tender. Remove pumpkin from oven. Cool 30 minutes. Cut pumpkin in half. Scoop out seeds. Scrape pumpkin flesh from peel. Mash with potato masher or blend on medium-high speed in small batches in 5-cup blender container until pumpkin is smooth. To store, place in resealable plastic food bag. Refrigerate up to 2 days.
To cook an unpeeled pumpkin on the stove, cut it in half; scoop out seeds and stringy portion. Cut pumpkin into 2-inch chunks. Heat 1-inch water to boiling in medium saucepan; add pumpkin. Continue cooking until water returns to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook until pumpkin is fork tender (25 to 35 minutes). Drain well; cool and remove peel. Return peeled pumpkin to saucepan; mash with potato masher until smooth or blend on medium-high speed in small batches in 5-cup blender container until smooth. To store cooked pumpkin, place in resealable plastic food bag. Refrigerate up to 2 days.The following recipes all call for canned pumpkin, but it's easy to substitute the real thing. Two cups of fresh cooked pumpkin equal one 16-ounce can.
Now that you know how to cook a pumpkin, why not skip the canned this year and try the real thing in one of these recipes?
Easy pumpkin cream pie
1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin
1 package (5.1 ounces) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups (about 6 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
1 cup fresh raspberries (optional)
Combine pumpkin, pudding mix, evaporated milk and pumpkin pie spice in large mixer bowl; beat for 1 minute or until blended. Fold in 11/2 cups whipped topping. Spoon into crust. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until firm. Let stand in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with remaining whipped topping and raspberries, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
Pumpkin toffee cheesecake
13/4 cups (about 14 to 16) shortbread cookies, crushed
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
11/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin
2⁄3 cup (5-ounce can) evaporated milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (about 25 to 30) crushed toffee candies
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel ice cream topping (optional)
To make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cookie crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press onto bottom and 1-inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes (do not allow to brown). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
To make cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, cornstarch and cinnamon; beat well. Pour into crust. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Remove from oven; top with toffee candy pieces.
To make topping: Combine sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Spread over warm cheesecake.
Bake for 8 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan. Drizzle cheesecake with caramel topping before serving. Makes 16 servings.
Marbled chocolate-pumpkin brownies
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened, and 3/4 cup butter, cut up
23/4 cups sugar, divided
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon plus 11/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Grease foil; set pan aside.
In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese and 1 tablespoon butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until well combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in 1 egg, pumpkin, 1 teaspoon vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger until combined. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.
In a small bowl stir together 11/4 cups flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large saucepan combine chocolate and 3/4 cup butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually add 21/4 cups sugar, beating with an electric mixer on low speed just until combined. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.
Spread chocolate mixture evenly in prepared pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture in several mounds on top of chocolate batter. Using a narrow metal spatula, gently swirl cream cheese mixture into chocolate batter. If desired, sprinkle with walnuts.
Bake about 60 minutes or until center is just set when pan is gently shaken. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of pan. Cut into brownies.
To store: Layer brownies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 36 brownies.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
Pasta with mushrooms and pumpkin-gorgonzola sauce
1 pound uncooked pennette (small penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 3/4 pound whole mushrooms)
4 cups vertically sliced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
11/2 tablespoons cornstarch
11/2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
Fresh sage sprigs (optional)
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Keep warm. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; cover and cook 3 minutes. Uncover; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Combine chopped sage and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Combine cornstarch and water, stirring with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture and cheese to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until thick and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Add pasta and pumpkin mixture to mushroom mixture; toss well to combine. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
From Cooking Light