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The Iron Chef discuss How should I approach the Great Pumpkin? in the General Forums forums; Ruben got me a pumpkin -- my first pumpkin -- and it has been sitting on my dining room table for over a week because ...

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    a mere housewife's Avatar
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    How should I approach the Great Pumpkin?



    Ruben got me a pumpkin -- my first pumpkin -- and it has been sitting on my dining room table for over a week because I don't know how to go about dealing with it. I really have no idea how I'm even to cut into it short of chopping it open with an axe (and I'm not really the axe-bearing kind), or what I am supposed to do with it afterwards. I feel sort of afraid of it: I actually avoid sitting at the table when Ruben isn't here because it is so enormous that I am conscious of its presence. I cannot tell you how the presence of a large pumpkin, just sitting there quietly not even respiring, but mutually Aware beneath its outwardly impassive surface, affects me. (Ruben sometimes affects me the same way, but I can tickle his feet.) I know I am given authority over this pumpkin and that I need to exercise dominion of it but I am not sure quite how. So please help. Do I bake it first and then divide it into parts? Do I whittle away at it for years with a blunt tableknife? Do I throw it down seventy times seven and gather up twelve baskets full? What happens if I just let it sit there? Will it grow supercilious?

    (I think Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once pointed out to his mother how difficult it is to cook when you anthropomorphise the vegetables.)
    Heidi
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    Scottish Lass's Avatar
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    Tim and I asked for pumpkin soup recipes on here recently and got some good replies. I have an easy one and one for pumpkin bread/cake.

    As far as using it, if it's a pie pumpkin, your first step will generally be to cut the pumpkin at least in half (some will recommend quarters or more, but that just seems to be extra work to me).

    We cut ours in half, and then we removed the pulp and seeds. You'll be left with roughly an inch of flesh attached to the rind. We placed our halves in a roasting pan with a few inches of water on a cookie sheet at 350 for an hour.

    While that started, we rinsed/dried the seeds and spread them on a pizza pan misted with olive oil and dusted with garlic (cajun would have been good, too). We toasted them on the top rack of the oven with the pumpkin (maybe fifteen minutes? Til they were browned, anyway).

    When the pumpkin is cooked enough, the flesh will be easy to scoop out and use as your recipe suggests. Most of the above info will not appear with the recipe--they seem to expect you to know what to do with it, but we were clueless!

    Hope this helps!
    Anna
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    If this is a mutant alien pumpkin, try feeding it candy. Otherwise, follow the directions above. ^^
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    With Song.

    ....

    Kathleen the Helpful here!

    In all seriousness though, I asked my roommate who is a splendid chef, and she seconded Anna's suggestion. She does recommend song to distract oneself as one hacks into an anthropomorphized vegetable, however.
    Kathleen M
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    Quote Originally Posted by Montanablue View Post
    With Song.

    ....

    Kathleen the Helpful here!

    In all seriousness though, I asked my roommate who is a splendid chef, and she seconded Anna's suggestion. She does recommend song to distract oneself as one hacks into an anthropomorphized vegetable, however.
    Anna
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    I really have no idea how I'm even to cut into it short of chopping it open with an axe
    Heidi with an axe? Just the thought....
    Norm
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    You know what ,Heidi, I may be wrong...but I thought the larger pumpkins were not very good to use for cooking. I remember hearing that its the smaller pumpkins that are best used for soups and pies etc. I'm not completely sure though...so I thought I would see if anyone else on the pb has heard of this as well????
    Yvonne K.
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    Quote Originally Posted by In His Grip View Post
    You know what ,Heidi, I may be wrong...but I thought the larger pumpkins were not very good to use for cooking. I remember hearing that its the smaller pumpkins that are best used for soups and pies etc. I'm not completely sure though...so I thought I would see if anyone else on the pb has heard of this as well????

    While this is true, if you follow the above instructions on putting it in the oven with a little water and scoop it out, it does work. If it doesn't soften up enough, you can put the pieces in the blender.

    This story reminds me of an experience I had with cooking pumpkin.

    Years ago, I lived and worked on the house staff at conference center in the Lake District in England. Because of my previous experience cooking for large groups, I was occasionally pulled off the housekeeping duties to help out in the kitchen. It was around thanksgiving time, and the cook felt sorry for me because, being an American, I was going to be missing American Thanksgiving. She got the brilliant idea of preparing thanksgiving dinner so I wouldn't feel homesick. Of course she wanted to know what food to prepare. I went through the list, and all was fine until I mentioned pumpkin pie. She said pumpkin pie sounded disgusting and that all pumpkins were good for was soup. She said we would have to skip the pumpkin pie unless I wanted to make it. Then she added that she didn't think they would even be able to find a pumpkin.

    I don't know why, but I told her that if they could find a pumpkin, I would make the pie.

    A few days passed and it was time to start working on the Thanksgiving dinner. I was in the kitchen chopping something when I saw the biggest pumpkin I'd seen in years approaching me. Peering around the pumpkin was a tiny lady who was staying as a guest that week. "Is this big enough?" (I about choked) The pumpkin was enormous. She told me how she heard me tell the cook I would make pumpkin pie if someone could find a pumpkin. So she took the bus to town and searched until she found the biggest pumpkin. Apparently she had walked the 2 miles back to the house carrying that huge pumpkin.

    What could I do? I had to bake the pumpkin. I ended up making about 10 pumpkin pies and the cook made enough soup for two meals.
    J Baldwin
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    Heidi, here's a secret nobody wants you to know: bake the pumpkin first, and then cut it. It is much easier (and safer).

    Try around 300 degrees for 30 minutes. It softens the skin. Then you slice it up, scoop out the seeds, and spoon out the meat for further cooking, canning, or whatever.

    Really, I do this with our large pumpkins. It's too hard to cut a big raw pumpkin.

    Edit: I forgot to add that you should let it cool for a while before cutting it. It's got steam inside.

    But, if you are in for excitement, put on an oven mitt and start stabbing, just make sure your face isn't in front of the hole!

    Edit#2 I found someone who agrees with me and gives even better directions:

    http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/t...cutting-033692
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    Anna and Vic, thanks especially for those details: that's exactly what I was hoping for. Vic, I think I will put it in the oven first as the thought of approaching the pumpkin 'as is' with a knife is a bit overwhelming: I don't think I have a big enough or a sharp enough knife. Kathleen, the suggestion about singing is great too: unfortunately I can't sing. So I will have to listen to Beethoven :-). Maybe I could make a little votive offering. Thanks so much for the help.

    Norm, not that I expect you have anything else in common, but you'll be perhaps interested, or perhaps merely blasé, to learn that a psychopath in a nightmare I recently had entirely agreed with you. He wasn't "comfortable" with me holding the axe. (I wasn't comfortable holding it either; but I was less comfortable handing it to him.)
    Heidi
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    Victor is right. Bake first. Cut with extreme caution, either that our a set of turn outs.

    And, it doesn't take a big knife. The meat of a pumpkin is really rather thin when compared to the diameter of the entire gourd. I've cut up many pumpkins using a knife with a three or four inch blade. Of course it is rather fun to pull out my Victorinox 'scimitar' and whale away at one of the things (It is an older butcher knife that is large, balanced, and wonderful to use. Carbon steel and kept hair popping, razor sharp.)
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    With any winter squash, I usually give it a couple of knife stab first if it's going in the oven whole -- you have less chance of an pumpkin exploding. When they go into the oven in pieces, I put the pieces cut side down in about 1/2 inch of water. (13x9 casserole dishes are good for this.)

    The problem with the larger pumpkins is that you often cannot get past all the stringy-ness. "Sugar" pumpkins, also sometimes called pie pumpkins aren't bred to be that structurally strong. You can usually scoop out the seeds and strings fairly easily and soften the rest by cooking.
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    Be sure to remove and clean the seeds. Spray them with an olive oil spray and sprinkle salt and/or garlic on them and roast them on a cookie sheet for about 45 min to an hour while the pumpkin is baking. They are a yummy snack!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwithnell View Post
    With any winter squash, I usually give it a couple of knife stab first if it's going in the oven whole -- you have less chance of an pumpkin exploding. When they go into the oven in pieces, I put the pieces cut side down in about 1/2 inch of water. (13x9 casserole dishes are good for this.)

    The problem with the larger pumpkins is that you often cannot get past all the stringy-ness. "Sugar" pumpkins, also sometimes called pie pumpkins aren't bred to be that structurally strong. You can usually scoop out the seeds and strings fairly easily and soften the rest by cooking.
    My dearest, the image of you and a knife and a pumpkin is forbidden!
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    Scottish Lass's Avatar
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    So, Heidi, how'd it go? We're all waiting to hear!
    Anna
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    Quote Originally Posted by In His Grip View Post
    You know what ,Heidi, I may be wrong...but I thought the larger pumpkins were not very good to use for cooking. I remember hearing that its the smaller pumpkins that are best used for soups and pies etc. I'm not completely sure though...so I thought I would see if anyone else on the pb has heard of this as well????
    Heidi, Yvonne is right... it is of course possible to make the meat from a large pumpkin turn out ok. However, the smaller pumpkins are the best for eating.
    With that in mind, why not just take this giant semi-sentient thing out and shoot it up? What fun!
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    Well here is how it has turned out so far.

    I have become friends with the pumpkin. Here we are dancing modestly at arms length (me in my green burka and hippy Russian doll pants) to Josh's theme music.

    Stay tuned. Ruben tells me that either he or the pumpkin must go. I'm making a pros and cons list and considering my options.

    Heidi
    Steger, IL

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    Are you sure that you aren't holding it at arms' length because it's rotting?
    Norm
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    Approach it from behind so it doesn't know you are coming. This can be difficult to accomplish since most people don't know the front of a pumpkin from the back. However the trick is not to be unseen but rather unheard since the pumpkin cannot see anything until you cut him some eyes. Come to think of it, it doesn't have ears either so just rush at it with a knife and start hacking away at it until it stops moving.
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    How about put it on the front porch along with other festive autumn decorations? That's where mine sit until after thanksgiving, then they go in the compost pile. Then random pumpkin plants grow in my garden for years, and I get free pumpkins next year. Because apparently pumpkin seeds are seriously hearty.

    Not to be contrary, but personally I don't like home baked pumpkin. I find the texture weird. Its one of those rare things that I'd rather just buy the canned version.
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    a mere housewife's Avatar
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    I am currently doing this, from Vic's website:

    If you are planning on using your pumpkin for pies and seeds (nothing decorative) you can also start by baking it whole for about 30 minutes at 300�F. The inner steam will start cooking the flesh and softening the rind.

    After baking, remove from the oven and (very importantly!!) let it cool for half an hour before slicing. You don't want to get burned by the steam that has built up inside. Carefully cut in half and remove the seeds and strings.
    Continue baking the two halves, cut side up, at 400�F for another 45 minutes, or until completely soft inside.


    having stabbed it first as suggested by JWithnell, and will be roasting the seeds as suggested by Marrow Man and Anna.

    How about put it on the front porch along with other festive autumn decorations? That's where mine sit until after thanksgiving, then they go in the compost pile. Then random pumpkin plants grow in my garden for years, and I get free pumpkins next year. Because apparently pumpkin seeds are seriously hearty.

    Not to be contrary, but personally I don't like home baked pumpkin. I find the texture weird. Its one of those rare things that I'd rather just buy the canned version.
    I actually haven't eaten pumpkin product in several years so I imagine that I won't notice if it is less than desirable. & I must say, as someone who has to eat my own cooking, I am pretty well inured to the less than desirable.

    Are you sure that you aren't holding it at arms' length because it's rotting?
    I always dance modestly at arms length, whether the vegetable is rotting or not.

    Approach it from behind so it doesn't know you are coming. This can be difficult to accomplish since most people don't know the front of a pumpkin from the back. However the trick is not to be unseen but rather unheard since the pumpkin cannot see anything until you cut him some eyes. Come to think of it, it doesn't have ears either so just rush at it with a knife and start hacking away at it until it stops moving.
    This was very helpful, thank you.
    Heidi
    Steger, IL

    'I cannot live like Jesus, example though he be
    For he was strong and selfless, and I am tied to me.
    But I have asked my Jesus to live his life in me . . .
    Behold his warm, his tangible, his dear humanity.'
    -Betty Stam

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    a mere housewife's Avatar
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    It yielded 2 tupperwares of the size below: I am not sure how much it is generally supposed to yield, but that seems like a lot. I blended it up in the blender, and it actually tastes very good, I think: though not like pumpkin. It tastes much more like butternut squash.

    Thanks very much everyone for your help :-).

    Heidi
    Steger, IL

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    For he was strong and selfless, and I am tied to me.
    But I have asked my Jesus to live his life in me . . .
    Behold his warm, his tangible, his dear humanity.'
    -Betty Stam

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    a mere housewife's Avatar
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    I told you that I would deal with your shenanigans. My super-power is to withhold 2/3 of my gratitude.
    Heidi
    Steger, IL

    'I cannot live like Jesus, example though he be
    For he was strong and selfless, and I am tied to me.
    But I have asked my Jesus to live his life in me . . .
    Behold his warm, his tangible, his dear humanity.'
    -Betty Stam

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    Scottish Lass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a mere housewife View Post
    It yielded 2 tupperwares of the size below: I am not sure how much it is generally supposed to yield, but that seems like a lot. I blended it up in the blender, and it actually tastes very good, I think: though not like pumpkin. It tastes much more like butternut squash.

    Thanks very much everyone for your help :-).
    Yeah, you look at the other tiny (by comparison) pie pumpkins and ask yourself how you're going to get enough, but you do. We used two small pie pumpkins, made six servings of soup, plus 20 oz to set aside for pie/bread/cake to make later.
    Anna
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