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Editor's Recipe: How to Bake Pumpkins for Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Bread, Muffins and More!

How to Bake Pumpkins
Copyright by Michelle Jones,

Our family loves pumpkin! Small, sweet pumpkins are plentiful this time of year and so fun to bake. Get the kids involved, it's a great cooking experience for them. Now these are not the large pumpkins you make "Jack-o-lanterns" out of for Halloween, but the smaller sized sweeter pumpkins also known as "pie" pumpkins. Pumpkins can be purchased throughout the Fall season at your local grocery stores, farms, farmer's markets and pumpkin patches--as long as supplies last. Once the pumpkins have all been sold that's usually it for the year; until next season.

1. Before baking your pumpkins scrub them with a little soap and water first as you do with all vegetables. You can cut them up and cook them in the microwave or on the stove top in a pot of water but I definitely prefer the oven, just slicing them in half one time is enough cutting for me. To bake pumpkins in the oven, slice them in half with a large chef's knife, scrape out seeds and stringy stuff, then place them skin side up with a bit of water (about 1/2 cup) in a baking dish, uncovered.

2. Generally, you will be able to fit one pumpkin (two halves) in each dish, so it may take a few hours to bake a large quantity of pumpkins. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, remove from oven to cool for about 30 minutes. The skin will come off so easily; after the pumpkins have been baked. You can either just peel the skin off with your fingers or turn the pumpkin halves over and scoop out the pumpkin flesh with a spoon or fork. The pumpkin will be a little thick and stringy but will soften completely into puree as you continue to work with it, perfect for recipes.

3. Each pumpkin (depending on size), will make about 2 or more cups of puree, just like a can of pumpkin at the store. Of course this will be fresh pumpkin and not processed... yum! (Our 7 pumpkins made 20 cups of puree.) After you have removed the pumpkin skin you can mash the pulp with a fork, put it in a food processor or blender, or puree it with a hand blender. The appliance you choose to use may depend on how much pumpkin you have. If you're preparing a dozen pumpkins, a large mixer would work best.

You can use some of the pumpkin now (my kids wanted me to make pumpkin pies the same day we baked the pumpkins, and boy does it make the house smell SO good!), then put the rest in the freezer to use for recipes during the holidays or later in the year. I like to use plastic zip freezer bags because they store in flat layers and make for easy clean up. (When freezing foods be sure to clean the zip seal before closing the bags and gently squeeze the extra air out, write the contents and date on the bag with a sharpie marker. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen for 8-12 months at 0°F.) Pumpkin is frozen by itself, not with the added ingredients that you will use when making pumpkin pies.

When we baked these pumpkins there were two more in the house that I had forgotten to round up so I had to bake them on another day. I handled removing the skins with the second option that I described and took this last photo for you. Instead of peeling the thin rind off I decided to make a cut down the center of each pumpkin half and scraped the pulp off with a large spoon. Either way works fine, whatever gets the job done, though the kids do seem to have an easier time with peeling the skin.

Cooked food generally keeps well for one week in the fridge so be sure to freeze your pumpkin puree quickly if you're not going to use it up. Pumpkin can be used in many recipes for pies, breads, cakes, muffins and soup... do you have a special recipe you'd like to share with us? :o) - Michelle