Cooking with Real Pumpkin

Erin is a mother of four and fledgling farmer in Virginia. She and her family live on four acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she raises a myriad of animals and a sizable garden.

She farms for the food— finding joy in from-scratch meals and the pleasure of sharing them with others. Her Homestead Mamas takeover runs July 12-14, and you can find her on Instagram

I have been a fan of all things pumpkin my whole life. A friend of mine once bought me a shirt that said “you had me at pumpkin spice” and while my husband teased me relentlessly about it, the fact remains: it was true! Whether you are a pumpkin fanatic or you prefer the seasons definitively stay in their own lane… now what it’s October, I think we can agree: it’s time for some fall baking!

There is nothing inherently wrong with using canned pumpkin from the grocery store. It’s affordable, consistent, comes in organic options, and is packed with the vitamin A. But since this is a blog for homesteaders, after all, let’s talk for a bit about growing our own pumpkin for baking and cooking!

I probably don’t need to tell you that the canned stuff we find in the store isn’t really “pumpkin” at all, but rather a combination of various winter squashes. Pumpkins (the ubiquitous round, orange, ribbed squash) can sometimes make for good eating. But the truth is many of them produce a more watery flesh… sometimes lacking flavor, sweetness, and often yielding a consistency too wet to bake with well. But squash! So many beautiful, colorful, warty, oblong, and interesting squashes make for tasty, rich flavored baked goods. Let’s talk about a few!

My very favorite squash for baking is the Long Island Cheese pumpkin. It’s a gorgeous dusty orange color (so very on trend for fall porches!). But more than that, it produces a vibrant, flavorful flesh that yields a puree so thick, you’d think it came from a can. I love to use it in all my sweet baked goods– especially pumpkin pies!
Another fabulous culinary squash is the Flat White Boer. You’d have probably called it a “white pumpkin” at the pumpkin patch… but now you know that since it’s white, it’s not a pumpkin! 🙂 Nevertheless, the earthy, rich flavor of this squash is uniquely savory and is very tasty in soups, curries, and other dishes. I like to add it to chili, incorporate it into loose batters, or make it into an alfredo sauce.
It might surprise you to know that butternut squash also make a lovely pumpkin substitute. The flesh is thicker and holds up well to baking, and it’s conveniently available in any grocery store! I would choose it over a little orange “pie pumpkin” every time.
To cook with fresh pumpkin:
Wash the skin of your squash, and slice it in half vertically down the center. Place cut side down onto an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet, and allow to roast at 350 degrees until the squash is tender throughout. This may take as little as 45 mins for something small like a butternut, or over an hour for a larger variety. Once it’s cooked, remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature before scooping out the flesh, discarding the seeds. You may choose to run it through a blender or food processor to create a smooth puree. Then, just substitute for canned pumpkin in any recipe! But keep in mind that a runnier puree may affect the consistency of baked goods (so it’s wise to choose a thick variety accordingly!).
Leftover cooked pumpkin can be frozen in bags or plastic containers, and will last for several months. I recommend freezing it in 15oz portions so it’s ready to thaw in exactly the same increment as a store-bought can!
So as you fill up your front porch with beautiful pumpkins and squashes this autumn, remember the food right outside your doorstep! Maybe take a moment at your neighborhood pumpkin patch or farmer’s market to ask about the varieties available, and select for qualities that will produce the most delicious fall flavors. And best yet! Browse through your favorite seed catalog for that perfect pumpkin… then grow it next year! You’ll be dreaming of fall muffins, soups, and pies from the first days of spring, and I will welcome you with open arms to the Crazy Pumpkin Lady Club 🙂


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