Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pumpkin Varieties

Who knew there were so many varieties of pumpkins.  All pumpkins are edible but some but some should be kept strictly for carving (I learned this last year when I tried to cook & eat my jack o lantern....yuck)!  Sure we have all seen the different sizes and colors of pumpkins but most of us steer straight toward the familiar big ones that we use for decoration on our front porch for Halloween.  There are actually certain varieties for different uses, here is your guide to the pumpkin!.

Pie Pumpkins
The most common variety of this pumpkin is the sugar pie.  It is a miniature version of the familiar jack o lantern large pumpkin.  To my surprise there are also a few others that suit well for pies.  Here are the most common.

 The Cinderella:  This was the most cultivated variety of pumpkin by Pilgrims (good little tid bit for your kids :) ).  Great for decorating and their flavor is good for pie or any winter squash recipe.
 Sugar Pie:  This is the most common baking pumpkin.  The skin is thin and the flesh is sweeter and finer than the jack o lantern type pumpkin.

Pumpkin Seed Pumkins
Who knew that there was actually a pumpkin that was best for seeds?  All seeds in pumpkins are edible but some have a thick hull and are not as tasty.

Kakai:  The seeds in this variety come out completely hull less!  This is a very attractive variety for decorating as well.  To toast the seeds scoop them out of the middle with a big spoon and place them on a baking sheet.  Its ok to leave some of the remnants of the flesh as it will add to the flavor.  Coat with 1 tbl of oil, 1 tbl butter and a sprinkle of salt and bake at 225 degrees for 1 hour.  Let cool and enjoy!

Soup & Stew Pumpkins
I haven't yet used pumpkin in a stew but every year I say I want to try pumpkin in chili.  This year I'm gonna do it!
Red Kuri:  These guys are tear-drop shaped and they have a smooth textured flesh.  They also work well in pies and purees because the skin (being red) won't show.
Kobocha:  These are excellent for soups and stews because of their firm dry flesh.  They are also great in savory dishes

Stand Alone Dish Pumpkins
Carnival:  How cool do these pumpkins look?  Best part is they store for several months and still taste great when cooked.  The flavor is a mixture of an acorn and delicata squash.

Stuffing Pumpkins
Sweet Dumpling:  These are the perfect size for a single serving.  It is sweet and tender and tastes similar to a Delicata.  These would make a fancy addition to any dinner party!

Breads, Cakes & Cookies
Sweet Meat:  This is one of the most popular winter squashes for eating and baking in the United States (outside of the West Coast).  The flesh is finely textured with a sweet flavor.

Steps to cook a pumpkin:

  1. Cut open and remove seeds and stringy material
  2. Cut into wedges or halves depending on cooking method.
Boil:  In large pot with 1/2 in water add 2 lbs of chopped pumpkin.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cook approx. 20-25 minutes or until flesh can easily be pierced with a fork.  Peel skin from flesh once cooked.

Steaming:  Fill large covered pot with 1 in of water and place a steaming rack inside.  Add pumpkin and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and steam 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove skin from flesh once cooled.

Oven Baking:  Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds and stringy material.  Cover with foil and place halves on a baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 1 - 1 1/2 hours or until flesh can be pierced with a fork.  Scoop out the flesh once cool.  

There you have about lots to choose from!  Happy baking :)