There are three excellent answers to this question. First, to be more like the Amish. Second, because canned pumpkins tastes like baby food. Third, and most importantly, is the satisfaction of knowing you cooked your meal from scratch. It will do wonders for your self-esteem, I assure you.
So let's give our egos the hug they need and start this project. You are going to feel so good about yourself when you're done.
Step One: This is a tough one. BUY A PUMPKIN...or three if you prefer. Once they've been purchased, I find it's a good idea to take a picture of your dirty pumpkins for the Internet. But before you take the picture be sure to wash the Rice Krispies your three year old spilled all over the table up and then put a table cloth on the table to make it look like you've got it all together.
Good Job. You are doing fantastic.
Step Two: Cut your pumpkins in half. Try not to get overwhelmed. This is a big step that involves a knife. A trip to the ER is not uncommon.
Ew, it's all seedy and stuff, what's that about? Let's de-seed this seedy, no good pumpkin. Seriously, who raised this thing?
You can use a spoon, but if you are like me and buy the cheapest spoons around, your spoon will no doubt bend backwards too. I ended up using my handy-dandy knife to cut the more stubborn pulp away and then just dug right in with my hand to pull out the seeds and excess pulp. I know that might sound gross, but it feels great. Like running your hands through a bowl of peeled grapes. Slimey and delicious.
Set your pumpkin seeds off to the side, you can clean them later for toasting but that's a whole other 'Cooking with Kareem' segment that I may or may not ever get too. So just store them indefinately. Until I decide if I have it as together as my table cloth would suggest.
The deseeded pumpkin before it gets the full-body steam.
Ah, there you are, Kareem. It occurs to me that I never explained how big of a pumpkin you would need. A small oversight that I will now correct. Your pumpkins should be roughly as tall as Kareem Abdul Jabaar when going in for a lay-up. (5 to 6 inches tall) It's important to note that football players and baseball players are too short; you should definately use your best basketball action figure to measure. You could even pop him into your purse and take him to the store with you if you are worried that you'll pick a pumpkin that is too big. Because, as we all know, picking a pumpkin that is too big is a huge mistake because that thing will never cook down.
Are we all clear on this? Excellent.
Step Three: Place two pumpkin halves face down in an appropriate size dish. I love my stoneware. It's not pretty but it is awesome in so many other ways. If you want pretty, click here*.
Fill the dish with three quarters (3/4) of an inch of water. If you are still adhering to the Kareem Abdul Jabaar method of measurment, that's about calf deep. Now cover the pumpkin-filled dish with foil. This way, the pumpkins won't see what's coming...
Step Four: Place pumpkins into the oven and cook for roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. You'll know that they are done when you reach your bare arm into the 350 degree oven and gently press down on the top of the pumpkin through the hot alumium foil with your bare hands and the pumpkin gives a little.
* I lied, not pretty.
This is what your cooked pumpkin will look like once you've got it out of the pan.
Step Four: Cool your pumpkin for fifteen minutes or as long as it takes you to check your e-mail, tweet and watch the latest Buffalo Bills press conference.
You are great.
You are wonderful.
Everybody likes you.
This process yielded roughly 10 unpacked cups of pumpkins. Once your pumpkin has cooled, you should separate it into two-cup sections and freeze it. This is an important step because if you let ten cups of pumpkin hang out together too long, they will create a plan of mutiny and come after you while you sleep, since you basically just violated them.
Also, most recipes call for two cups of pumpkin and having it already separated will be helpful later on.
I believe we have successfully cooked down enough pumpkin to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin ka-bobs...
When you are ready to use your pumpkin, you will need to puree it in a blender or food processor, but make sure you thaw it out first because pureeing a frozen product can get tricky. Ah, but that's a lesson for another day.
Next week Kareem and I might walk you through the steps of sewing your own bonnet and churning butter.
But probably not.