Is Bigger Better?

dining hpI finally had my fresh Jack O’lantern pumpkin purée recipe down to a science when I read that the smaller sugar pies were a better choice. So I conducted a head-to-head competition.

I took one locally grown sugar pie pumpkin ($4.33) weighing in at 3 and one third pounds from Shopper’s Corner, and a 13-pound monster ($3.99) from Safeway. Laying each on its side, I used a thin, sharp knife to cut each in half around the circumference. After scooping out the seeds with a sturdy cereal spoon (and putting them in four cups of water to which a tablespoon of salt had been added), I placed the pumpkins, cut side down (this creates a kind of steam hut), on a cookie sheet and baked them in a 350-degree oven. The little one was fork tender after 40 minutes, the larger one after an hour.

When hot, the inner strings are easily scooped out. Making a little incision around the stem or blossom end, the skin peeled off in leathery sheets. I then put the hot chunks of squash into the food processor. Each pound of vegetable produces about one cup of pulp that can be used in pies, cookies, breads and soups. I even make a pumpkin pie-spiced Crème Brûlée.

The sugar pie pumpkin produced a thick purée, definitely sweeter and with an attractive carrot color. The pulp of the Halloween pumpkin was decidedly yellow and contained more water, but I definitely liked its strong pumpkin flavor.

About those soaking seeds: when toasted they are unlike any I’ve found in a store. Let them rest overnight, drain, and clean out all the strings. Place the seeds on an ungreased baking sheet, lightly salt, and bake at 350 degrees. After 10 minutes, stir them up, spread them out, and lightly salt. Repeat until crisp and dry, about 20 minutes. | KP

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