Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bake Inside Your Pumpkins and Some Pumpkin Facts

Did you know pumpkins have been around for 11,000 years? Or that the biggest pumpkin on record weighed over 1,300 pounds? Pumpkin is a warm-season vegetable that can be grown throughout much of the United States. Besides being used as jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween, pumpkins are used to make pumpkin butter, pies, custard, bread, cookies and soup.

Select heavy unblemished pumpkin that is free of cracks and soft spots and has a deep orange color. Harvest with at least an inch of stem remaining or it will decay quickly. Pumpkins should not be stored in the refrigerator or in a damp place. Moisture causes rapid deterioration. Whole unblemished pumpkin can be stored for 3 to 6 months at 45 to 50 degree temperatures.

The orange-flesh is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is a source of beta carotene which is a powerful antioxidant. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, vision, bone development and many other functions. Pumpkin is also a tasty source of carbohydrates and potassium.
Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin)
Calories 24

Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrates 5.98 grams
Dietary Fiber 1 gram
Potassium 280.6 mg
Phosphorus 36.6 mg
Vitamin A 1320
IUVitamin C 5.73 mg

Peeling pumpkin can be a challenge to the novice.

  • To open, place the pumpkin on newspaper and insert the tip of a chef knife or break it open by cracking on a hard surface.
  • Scoop out the strings and seeds and discard, unless you plan to roast the seeds.
  • Wash each section and use a sharp paring knife or vegetable to peel the large pieces. The pieces can be baked unpeeled as well.
  • The pieces can be cooked until soft in a small amount of boiling water, in steam, or in a pressure cooker.
  • The oven method is very easy.
  • To bake, place cut side down on a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or longer. Test for doneness by piercing with a fork.
  • When tender, remove from the oven, allow to cool before handling.
  • If unpeeled, spoon out the soft flesh and proceed with any recipe calling for cooked mashed pumpkin or substitute in recipes calling for canned pumpkin.
  • For microwaving:
  • place cut side down and microwave on high for 15 minutes or until fork tender. At this point the pumpkin can be seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar and served as a side dish with meals.
  • Pumpkin can be preserved by freezing or canning.
  • To freeze, cook as directed above (Preparing and Serving Pumpkin).
  • To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally.
  • Package in zip closure freezer bags or ridged containers leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  • Seal and freeze.

Pumpkin Stew

Description: This Pumpkin Stew recipe is baked and served in the pumpkin. It's a great way to cook and serve pumpkin stew. Your guests will be delighted!

Ingredients: 1 10 - 12 pound pumpkin
2 lb. Beef stew meat
2 tbs. Oil
1 Bell Pepper
1 Onion
4 Medium potatoes
3 Carrots
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Sticks of Celery
1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
2-3 cups Water
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Preparation Directions:
Carve a hole in the top of the pumpkin and remove seeds, and stringy insides.
Set pumpkin aside.
In a dutch oven brown 2 lbs of stew meat in oil.
Add in 1 bell pepper(sliced into inch thick slices), 1 onion (sliced), 4 medium potatoes(cubed), 3 carrots(cubed), 2 cloves of garlic(diced), 2 sticks of celery(sliced), 1 - 15 oz can of diced tomatoes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add 2 - 3 cups of water.
Let simmer for 1 hour.
Place pumpkin in shallow pan, and place stew inside pumpkin.
Brush the outside of the pumpkin with a light coating of oil.
Bake pumpkin and stew at 350 for 2 hours, or until pumpkin is tender.
Serve wile hot.
Be sure to get chunks of pumpkin in your stew, as they enhance the flavor of the stew.