There once was a time in popular American culture when a pumpkin simply meant funny faces or pie. Now, this fall squash is celebrated in products ranging from overpriced lattes at 380 calories a pop to Oreos and chewing gum. There’s even pumpkin spiced shower gel! Thankfully, as illustrated in this Buzzfeed article, there a few products that haven’t made their way to store shelves quite yet.
After receiving a pie pumpkin in my fall farm share, I realized how little I knew about cooking it. The canned stuff is so accessible – it’s hard to imagine slicing the golden orb, scooping out the seeds and roasting it – rather than simply reaching for a can opener. My pumpkin sat on the counter like a decorative ornament for nearly two weeks. I was intimidated as hell. Finally, I decided to conquer my fears on an early Sunday morning. I don’t sleep in, as you might recall.
It’s important to note that pie pumpkins are very different from those that are carved. They have a thicker flesh, less seeds and are sweeter. As opposed to carving pumpkins where the flesh is thinner, grainer and contains more water.
Now that I’ve experienced the process first hand, I can tell you one thing is for certain. Freshly roasted pumpkin simply tastes better. As the high heat penetrates the flesh, the natural sugars begin to caramelize, creating a depth and richness of flavor unlike any other roasted squash variety. I found the flavors to be so concentrated, my usual spice-to-pumpkin ratios required adjustment. Ground nutmeg seemed especially overwhelming.
I also learned that whether in pureed form or sliced in to chunks, roasted pumpkin freezes beautifully. To make it easier to use in recipes, divide it into one or two cup portions. That way it’s one less item to measure later.
So I’m not going to lie. Preparing and roasting a pumpkin is a lot of work. But, the end result was far superior to anything I would find in a can. Am I going to abandon convenience over flavor? Not entirely. But it’s good to know the option is out there.
How to Roast a Pumpkin
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large sheet pan with foil. The only reason for the foil is for easy clean up.
- With a large sharp knife, slice the pumpkin in half. This is not for the timid as you may need to use force to plunge through the flesh. Make sure all of your digits are away from the blade.
- Scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers from each side of the pumpkin. It’s important to remove as much of the fiber as you can. Otherwise, the strings will burn during the roasting process.
- Slice each half into 4 to 8 wedges, depending on the size of the pumpkin. They should be approximately 1-inch thick. Brush each side lightly with olive oil.
- Place the wedges, cut side up, evenly on the sheet pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender.-
- Remove from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool long enough to handle. Using a paring knife, peel away the skin from each wedge.
- Dice the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes. Puree in a food processor or use the cubes in your favorite savory recipe.
- To freeze, allow the pumpkin puree or cubes to cool completely in the fridge. Package into one or two cup portions in freezer safe containers. Label, date and freeze up to six months.