While many families will travel this month from patch to patch seeking the perfect pumpkin, few will think about its uses after Halloween.
In the United States, many pumpkins are used for jack-o-lanterns. The deep orange pumpkins often are too large and stringy to eat.
But for those who are looking for pumpkins suitable for eating, one local expert has a few tips. Sugar pumpkins typically are used for pumpkin pies, cakes and casseroles, although the canned variety is just as tasty.
"The size of the pumpkin you buy will depend on your needs," said Betty English, family consumer sciences agent for Columbia and Richmond counties. "When picking your pumpkin, you want to make sure there is no damage to the rind. You want a good quality outer shell that is smooth, with no cracks or soft spots."
Pumpkins used for cooking should have a rich orange color and can be stored up to a month prior to use if kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Once a pumpkin is cut, it should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three to five days.
A traditional pumpkin pie recipe calls for heavy cream and whole eggs. However, pumpkin, which has just 20 calories for a one-half cup serving, is not a culprit of the fat found in the pie. By substituting evaporated skim milk for the cream and three egg whites for every two whole eggs, the fat calories can be reduced by nearly a quarter.
"You still have the sugar and all in there, but you're cutting a lot of the fat calories," said English, who added that using a graham cracker crust instead of a pastry pie shell will cut even more calories.
If a pumpkin pie really isn't what you want, there are other ways to cook and eat pumpkin. For instance, pumpkins can be baked, boiled, steamed, broiled, pressure-cooked and pan-fried.
To serve pumpkins, first remove the seeds and the stringy part. Baked pumpkins can be cut in half, placed cut side down in a baking dish with nearly a quarter-inch of water and baked until tender. When the pumpkin is nearly done, which varies depending on the size of the pumpkin, it should be turned right-side up and seasonings such as cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar added.
Boiling pumpkins is even easier: just add either a cut-up or whole pumpkin to salted water. When it is tender, take it out of the water, scrape the puree out of the shell and use it for pies, breads or casseroles.
"Pumpkin has great nutritional value," said English. "It contains vitamins A and C, some B vitamins and trace amounts of iron and calcium."
As you search out pumpkins this year, look for ones that can be used in your fall dcor during the early part of the season and then used to create a dish for holiday festivities.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.