Pumpkin varieties vary greatly. The pumpkins you carve into jack-o’-lanterns are different from those you use in pumpkin pie, roasted vegetables or pumpkin soup. Typically, you use field pumpkins for carving, although you may use smaller field pumpkins for cooking. Pumpkin and winter squash are interchangeable. You can easily substitute one for the other in any recipe. Squash varieties in order of closeness to pumpkin texture and flavor are buttercup, golden nugget and butternut.
Field pumpkins tend to be larger; have coarser, more fibrous flesh and are less sweet than pie or sugar pumpkins. Sugar, or pie, pumpkins carve well, too.Sugar pumpkins, which are bright orange and round, average 5 to 8 pounds. These fleshy pumpkins have a fine texture and a sweet flavor.
How to Use
Use puree in pies, pancakes, soups, breads and muffins.
How to Buy
Choose pumpkin that is heavy in relation to size, with good orange color and hard, tough rinds with no soft spots. Also look for miniature pumpkin varieties that weigh 4 to 6 ounces. You’ll find them with names like Jack-Be-Little, Munchkin and Sweet Dumpling. You can simply remove seeds and strings and bake for individual servings.
How to Prepare
Wash pumpkin. To bake—Cut pumpkin lengthwise in half or quarters, remove seeds and fibers. To boil or steam—Peel pumpkin if desired. Cut into 1-inch slices or cubes.
How to Cook Conventionally
Bake:Place pumpkin halves or quarters, cut sides up, in ungreased 13x9-inch baking dish. Pour water into dish until 1/4 inch deep. Cover and bake in 400º oven 30 to 40 minutes; in 350º oven about 40 minutes; in 325º oven about 45 minutes; or until tender.
Boil: Slices or cubes—covered 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
Steam:Slices—covered 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Cubes—covered 7 to 10 minutes or until tender.
How to Microwave
For small whole pumpkin—Pierce with knife in several places to allow steam to escape. Place on microwavable paper towel. Microwave uncovered on High about 5 minutes or until squash feels warm to the touch. Cut in half; remove seeds. Arrange halves, cut sides down, in shallow dish. Microwave 5 to 8 minutes longer or until tender. Let stand 5 minutes.
How to Store
The pumpkin’s hard skin protects the flesh and allows it to be stored. Keep in a cool, dark place for a month or more, depending on the variety. Refrigerating is not necessary.