Every year, we get together with friends to create jack-o-lanterns. We carve out the top and middle, saving the seeds to bake later, and create faces in the squash. They sit out on the porch, glowing with evil grins throughout the Halloween season. A few years ago, when buying the large pumpkins to carve, I also started to pick up a few of the smaller versions as well (known as ‘sugar’ pumpkins, because they are a little sweeter and therefore better for baking). And now, baking with fresh pumpkin is also a ritual. Sure, it’s easy to grab a can of pumpkin from the grocery store, but like everything else, it tastes better when it’s from a local, fresh source.
To prepare the pumpkin:
- Carve the top with a serrated knife, cutting a circle around the stem (large enough so that you can dig out the seeds)
- Scoop out the fibers and seeds; set the seeds aside to bake later
- Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape away any remaining fibers or seeds
- Place both halves in a baking dish, cut side down, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour (or until tender)
- Cool, then scrape away the flesh (discard the rind)
- Mash or puree – use immediately or freeze for later