Cooking with pumpkins

Cooking with Cathie

Cathie CampbellOctober 18, 2012 

October is my favorite time of year, not only for the cooler weather and colorful falling leaves, but also for all the yummy meals associated with the fall season. And I love pumpkins! Any kind will do: glass, ceramic, plastic, wooden, metal; basically, pumpkins in any type of artwork or media. I collect them and place them all around the house in October and November. I also love real pumpkins, both for decorating and for eating.

I thought it would be fun to share some pumpkin recipes -- mostly using the convenient canned pumpkin puree. Remember that pumpkins meant for cooking, usually called sugar pumpkins, are not the same as those grown for decorations or jack-o-lanterns, which are normally too stringy for cooking (although it can be done).

A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1 1/2 cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Even if you do not celebrate Halloween, pumpkins fit right into any fall menu planning or baking ideas. Enjoy this delicious and nutritious orange globe!

Pumpkin pecan tassies

  • 1 package (15-oz.) rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust (2 crusts)
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream or milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Maple syrup, optional
  1. Let pie crusts stand according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350. Unroll pie crusts. Using a 2 1/2 -inch round cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds from each pie crust. Gently ease pastry rounds into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 ungreased 1 3/4 -inch muffin cups; set aside.
  2. For filling, in a large bowl stir together pumpkin, granulated white sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add egg; stir until well mixed. Gradually add half-and-half. Stir just until blended.
  3. For pecan topping, in a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, and melted butter.
  4. Spoon about 2 teaspoons filling into each pastry-lined cup. Top each with a scant 1 teaspoon pecan topping. Bake about 35 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. Remove tassies from muffin cups and cool completely on a wire rack. If desired, drizzle tassies with maple syrup just before serving. To store: Place tassies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months; thaw about 1 hour at room temperature before serving. Makes 24 tassies.

Pumpkin cream cheese spread

Great on toasted breakfast bagels.

  • 1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or use honey as a sweetener, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Beat all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

How to bake a sugar pumpkin

This is more for preparing pumpkin puree to use in other recipes. If you want to cook the fresh pumpkin like you would an acorn, butternut or banana squash, place each half in a baking pan, season with salt and pepper, add a few dabs of butter and then sprinkle with desired amount of brown sugar and maybe a little maple syrup. Add some water to the pan and bake until the pumpkin is done and well glazed. I do not cover the pan, but you can start out that way and then remove the foil a while before the pumpkin is done. If you leave it covered the whole time, it will be more steamed than baked.

  1. Preheat oven to 375. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut off the stem end. Then cut the pumpkin in half (from stem end down to bottom) and remove the seeds. Save the seeds to roast, if you want.
  2. In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
  4. Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it. Note: For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.

Downeast Maine pumpkin bread

This bread is even better the next day.

  • 1 can (15-oz.) pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves (ground, not whole)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 7-by-3-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes three loaves.

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