A couple of weeks ago a friend told me he had a Japanese friend who wanted to know if the decorative pumpkins sold in grocery stores could be prepared to eat. The small pumpkins (about the size of a cantaloupe) are usually sugar pumpkins (aka pie pumpkins), and are the best type for eating. Each fall I usually get a few organic sugar pumpkins from a neighboring organic farmer. I roast them and then freeze for later use (pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin cookies… stuff like that). Pumpkins sold for carving are edible, but don’t taste as nice as sugar pumpkin. I don’t know if I’m imagining it or not, but it always seems that I get the best flavor from smaller pumpkins, so I try choose the really small ones…. a little larger than a softball, but no larger than one of those mini basketballs. Additionally, the smaller size is so much easier to handle.
I’m sure you can find a bazillion different instructions online for roasting pumpkin. This is just my way of doing it. One quick tip: a good sharp 8 or 9 inch chef’s knife makes quick work of the job. Just be sure to take your time and be safe.
First, remove the stem end.
I usually just roast the halves, but this time I wanted some chunks for pumpkin risotto, so I roasted some both ways. I cut a couple of the halves into wedges, peeled with a vegetable peeler, and diced.
Place pumpkin halves on a foil lined baking sheet, cut side down, and roast in a 400°F oven. If you place them cut side up, water will collect in the hollow, keeping the sugars from caramelizing. Caramelization is what you want, and where all that nice roasty pumpkin flavor comes from.
** Bunny Trail Alert ** I learned something from my oldest teenage son a couple of years ago. Did you know there are lock tabs on the ends of aluminum foil boxes? I didn’t, and they’re absolutely genius. They keep the roll of foil from coming out of the box when you’re trying to tear a piece off.
I removed the diced pumpkin from the oven after about 15 minutes, and then shoved the halves back in for a total roasting time of about 30 minutes. Roasting time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the pumpkins. Roast until fork tender and slightly browned. My skins bubbled up a bit, and there was a beautiful clear, thick orange liquid on the baking sheet. Be sure to use the juice, as it’s packed with flavor.
Scoop the roasted flesh from the skins to use in your favorite recipes. You can also freeze for later use. In my next couple of blog posts, I’ll give you my recipes for Pumpkin Risotto and Autumn Ham Soup with Pumpkin & Barley.