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Pumpkin Facts and Preparation Tips

Here are some interesting pumpkin facts, trivia and preparation tips for cooking fresh pumpkin for pie filling.

Pumpkin Facts and Trivia

Fresh pumpkins are available in the fall and winter. Some specimens have weighed in at over 100 pounds! There are two types of pumpkins available commercially. Sugar pumpkins are usually the smaller, deep orange variety. Field pumpkins, also known as jack o' lanterns, are larger, a brighter shade of orange and more suitable for carving. Although both varieties are edible, sugar pumpkins have sweeter flesh and are better for cooking.The flesh from the smaller ones are more tender and less stringy than the larger variety. Pumpkin has a mild, sweet flavor and the seeds, husked and roasted, are deliciously nutty.

Select pumpkins that are between five to eight pounds, free from blemishes and heavy for their size. Store whole pumpkins at room temperature up to a month or refrigerate up to 3 months. Puréed pumpkin is also available canned. Pumpkin may be prepared in almost any way suitable for winter squash. It's a good source of vitamin A.

Pumpkin is highly perishable and must be cooked the same day it is cut open. Otherwise, the flesh will develop a feathery black mold. Cooked pumpkin should be refrigerated immediately. Puréed pulp should be used within 36 hours, or freeze for later use.

Did you know the pumpkin pie was introduced to the holiday table at the Pilgrim's second Thanksgiving in 1623? The new Americans found the Indians growing and using this large and cumbersome fruit. They soon adapted it to their households as a much loved food. In Australia and Great Britain they have a similar pie made of pumpkin called "Gramma's Pie".

Preparation and Cooking Pumpkin for Pies

1. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scrape out all the seeds and membrane (a large metal serving spoon works well).

2. Cut it into sections and with a paring knife, cut the skin off the flesh.

3. Steam the flesh until tender and purée. Do NOT boil the pumpkin in water - it will soak up the water and make a watery pie. (See recipe for Fresh Pumpkin Pie.)

Note: An alternative method for dealing with the difficult task of removing the hard shell from fresh pumpkin or squash, is to put the pumpkin in the microwave oven for 5 minutes on high. Allow to cool a little, and then slice it open. It will be much easier to cut. Simply remove the seeds and membrane and proceed with cooking until tender. Use the pulp in any recipe calling for canned or cooked pumpkin.

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