Pumpkin season is just around the corner. The traditional Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin is the only type many folks are accustomed to. In recent years there has been a resurgence of specialty varieties available for purchase. You can pick out many shapes, colors and textures. These can be arranged in the house or on the porch, creating interesting visuals for creative decorators. If this is all you do with these pumpkins that might be fine, but… you would be missing out on a culinary opportunity! Pies, butters and breads made from these pumpkins take the taste buds to a whole new level.
Baking a pie pumpkin is a fun activity for kids and will leave the kitchen smelling great. Some of the varieties have intriguing names. Here are just a few.
- Blue Delight – Blue gray pumpkin flatter than it is tall. Ridges separate the sections of the pumpkin.
- Long Island Cheese – Smooth tan pumpkin flatter than it is tall. This is my favorite for baking.
- Rascal Pink – Pink skin and flat with ridges.
- Fairytale Cinderella – Flat pumpkin with orange to blue coloring. Flatter than it is tall but often too big to fit in the oven.
I have baked a variety of these pumpkins but I like the Long Island Cheese the best. It yields well and is not too big for the oven. Choose a pumpkin that is at least twice as wide as it is tall.
Wash the pumpkin then put it on a baking sheet with some water in it. Punch holes in the pumpkin with a knife so that pressure does not build up while cooking. Bake at 350° until a fork can be easily inserted.
After you remove the pumpkin from the oven you can peal the skin back to expose the contents. Be careful; the steam from inside the pumpkin can burn you! Using a large serving spoon scoop out the meat and separate it from the seeds. I usually divide it into 2 cup amounts. These can be frozen and pulled out to make many different items that call for pumpkin. Don’t throw the seeds out! Seeds can be salted and put back in the oven to toast for a nutritious snack.
One of our favorite recipes is “Pumpkin Eater Bars”
Pumpkin Eater Bars
1½ C uncooked oats
1¼ C flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t soda
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C chopped nuts
¾ C butter
16 oz. or 2 C pumpkin
2/3 C milk
1/3 C brown sugar
1 T pumpkin pie spice
For crumb crust, combine oats and other dry ingredients. Add butter; beat at low speed till crumbly. Save out 1½ C crumb mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom of greased 13 x 9 in. baking pan. Bake at 375º 10 minutes.
For filling, beat all ingredients well. (Better to use a whisk; it splatters like crazy!) Spread over partially-baked crust. Sprinkle saved crumb mixture over pumpkin mixture. Continue baking 25 minutes. Cool; chill, cut into bars. (These freeze well).