The autumn season is a time of harvest and nothing can be more pleasing to a vegetable gardener or baker than a bumper-crop of fresh, plump pumpkins. This cool-weather vegetable is delicious prepared by itself, in soups, casseroles, or baked dishes. Not all pumpkins can be used for cooking, so be sure you purchase the correct variety such as New England Pie or Mystic pumpkins. Many bakers and chefs prefer using fresh pumpkin over canned because fresh pumpkin will not contain additives such as salt; also some recipes require pumpkin that has not been pureed. In addition, more pumpkin mash is obtained from cooking a fresh pumpkin, up to four cups per a five-pound pumpkin, as compared to a 16-ounce can that yields approximately two cups. Most baked pumpkin dishes call for pureed pumpkin, so the when baking with fresh pumpkin it will need to be washed and cut in sections, and either steamed, baked, or cooked in the microwave in order to remove the pulp.
Tip #1. Place the cut pieces of pumpkin curved side down and rind side up on the baking sheet or in the steamer. The curved part will act like a mini-dome and trap the steam underneath, cooking the fresh pumpkin quickly.
Tip #2. Steamed pumpkin can sometimes retain water. After scooping out the softened pumpkin from the rind, place the chunks in a colander to strain off the access water before using pumpkin in your baked recipes.
Tip #3. I often freeze fresh pureed pumpkin in zipped plastic bags to use at a future date. I have that adding Fruit Fresh to the mixture before freezing helps the pumpkin retain its distinct pumpkin color. Fruit Fresh helps protect the flavor of the pumpkin and does not contain any additives.
Tip #4. When you have pureed you fresh pumpkin, and while it is still in the blender, add other ingredients from the recipe and blend thoroughly. This will help save time and you will have less dirty dishes to clean up.
Tip #5. Some recipes that call for pureed pumpkin look better with fresh shredded or slightly lumpy cooked pumpkin, such as pumpkin bread. Instead of pureeing your fresh cooked pumpkin, set the blender on mix and a low speed.
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