The leaves are almost gone.
Pumpkins are everywhere, including those awesome pumpkin spice English muffins you can only buy in the fall. I love pumpkins. Love looking at them, cooking them, and eating them. But one thing I don't do anymore is carve my pumpkin into a jack o' lantern. Everyone has their fall rituals. Mine is not carving my pumpkin until I'm ready to cook it.
Yeah. I know. I sound like the Halloween version of Ebenezer Scrooge, but I think it's a damn shame to waste a pumpkin on a single October night when it can be visually enjoyed for at least two months and then tastily enjoyed throughout the year.
I buy my pumpkin as soon as they begin to appear for sale and set it on the deck where I can see it through my kitchen window. Simply looking at it makes me feel good. I can't explain why. The color, the shape, the season it represents--all of those and more add to the pumpkin's appeal.
Its cheerful orange face smiles at me from the deck until sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving when I bring it inside and bake it. Baking a pumpkin is easier than you might think, and the house smells amazing!
How to Bake Your Own Pumpkin
- Cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the seeds, and place it cut side down on a large baking sheet that will catch the juice.
- Bake at 350 until the top skin is browned and the pulp is soft. Sometimes this can take up to two hours depending on the size of your pumpkin. With large pumpkins, you may have to bake them one half at a time.
- Allow to cool and peel off the skin.
- Puree the pulp in a blender and then place in a colander to drain off the excess liquid. You can save this and the liquid from the baking pan and add a little sugar and pumpkin pie spice to make pumpkin juice à la Harry Potter. I like it best mixed with hot apple cider.
- If your pumpkin pulp is still somewhat soupy after the draining process, place it in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking until it reaches the desired texture and thickness.
- The pulp can then be used immediately or frozen for later use. I usually freeze mine in cottage cheese cartons, but you can divide it into the specific quantities called for in your favorite recipes.
What about you? What are your favorite fall rituals?