Surprising Results in Pumpkin Purée Blind Taste

Pumpkin in the house!
We had a blind taste of pumpkin purée this evening with very surprising results.

Pumpkins1) Grocery store Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin purée
2) Libby’s canned pumpkin purée – 100% pumpkin with no additives
3) Homegrown Sugar Pie pumpkin purée

All three purées were similarly prepared. I baked both the homegrown and grocery store pumpkins and then processed and used an immersion blender for a smooth consistency. I did not add anything to the purées so it was just 100% pumpkin. Pumpkin is not a sweet squash, but a great addition to recipes.

RESULTS

First Place: Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin was the sweetest of the three and our favorite.

Second Place: Sugar Pie pumpkin. It was a close second behind the Jack-o-Lantern. This pumpkin was grown last year, processed and frozen until yesterday. It was good, but not quite as sweet as the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin.

Third Place: Libby’s canned pumpkin. Bleh! Not nearly as good as the fresh pumpkin. Tasted a little like the can.

We did not try this year’s fresh homegrown Sugar Pie as I had already processed and froze it all.

I was sure the canned pumpkin was going to be the one to beat.  Fresh pumpkin purée is easy to make and a favorite to use in recipes, but I was very surprised at the noticeable difference in taste. Easy to grow, but just as easy to use your Jack-o-Lantern after you’ve carved it for Halloween. We used a battery-powered candle inside the Jack-o-Lantern instead of a flamed candle. This keeps the pumpkin from “cooking” before I’m ready to process the whole thing. When carving your pumpkin, make sure you are thorough in removing the inside seeds and pulp and bake the next day because you don’t want fuzz to start to grow.

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Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

I love this soup. In my opinion, the relish makes the soup so you may want to double or even triple the relish. Pumpkin soup by itself was a little bland, but the added spicy relish puts it over-the-top good. I made this soup for a neighborhood progressive dinner and kept it in the crock pot until serving. Both the soup and the relish keep well in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish

Ingredients:
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
1 med. onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3 Tbs. flour
2 tsp. ground thyme
2 tsp. hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups chicken stock
1 (28-oz) can cooked pumpkin purée (Or fresh if you have it.)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Relish:
1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup dried or fresh cranberries, chopped
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:
Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the oil and melt the butter. Add bay, celery, and onion, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Add flour, thyme and hot sauce, then cook flour a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in pumpkin. Simmer for a few minutes and then add in cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat until ready to serve.

Relish: Combine apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish.

Note: I love the cool crunchy relish in the warm soup and I like a bit of relish with every bite, so make extra.


Pumpkins 101: Seeds and Fresh Purée

Halloween is here and I am busy with pumpkins! Homegrown sugar pie pumpkins have been refrigerated since ripening on the vine. I also bought a few large pumpkins from the grocery store for pumpkin seeds and roasting pumpkin to use later in the season.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin from the garden.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin from the garden.

First up are the pumpkin seeds from the store-bought carving pumpkins.

This year I decided to look for a new pumpkin seed recipe; I searched through a lot of recipes. My family likes traditional roasted seeds so kicking it up with sweet or spicy isn’t an option. A few recipes call for boiling the seeds before roasting and this process seems to help with a nice, even salty flavor. Apparently, boiling also helps with digestion. The seeds were delicious, crunchy and gone before the night’s end.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh pumpkin seeds
Salt
Olive Oil

1. Carve your pumpkin, saving the seeds in one bowl and pulp in another bowl. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse well under water to remove all the remaining pulp.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2. Add seeds to a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. (For every 1 cup of seeds use 4 quarts of water and 3 Tablespoons of salt.) Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

3. Drain the seeds and coat with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Spread seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle salt over seeds. Roast seeds at 325 degrees until golden brown. Do not over bake and watch the seeds carefully so they do not burn.

Note from Whole Foods Market: “For spicy pumpkin seeds, mix 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt, cumin, coriander and cardamom with seeds and oil before roasting. For sweet pumpkin seeds, mix 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger and 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar with seeds and oil before roasting.”

Sugar Pie pumpkins are the preferred pumpkin for baking and I started growing my own last year. I freeze the pumpkin purée, but I’d like to try to pressure can it some day.

Fresh Pumpkin Purée
Roasted Pumpkins

Roasted Pumpkins

1. Break off the stem from the pumpkin. Slice each pumpkin in half from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp into two separate bowls. Seeds will be saved for next year’s crop and pulp will go in the compost bin.

2. Place the pumpkins with cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° until soft, about an hour or more, depending on the size.

3. When pumpkins have cooled, scoop out all the flesh and place into a colander. Skins go into the composter. Let the flesh drain in the colander for an hour or two.

4. I like to put all of the purée into my Vitamix for a minute or two to get a really smooth texture.

5. Scoop pulp into a freezer bag or seal-a-meal. Label and freeze. Since recipes usually call for a 16-oz can, I like to freeze in two-cup increments.

Use the purée throughout the year, adding to soups, baked goods and smoothies. I have a wonderful pumpkin soup recipe that I’ll post later.

Golden Pumpkin Puree

Golden Pumpkin Puree

After the Halloween festivities have died down, grab your Jack-O-Lanterns and process in your pressure cooker as follows:

Jack-O-Lantern Purée

pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker, not to be confused with a pressure canner.

1. Cut up Jack-O-Lanterns into 4 to 5 inch chunks and place in your pressure cooker with one cup of water. Cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes. Release pressure, remove pumpkin and separate pulp from skin. We usually have a few pumpkins so it takes a few batches to cook it all. Process purée from nos. 3-5 above.

Happy Halloween!