'Tis officially pumpkin season, ladies and gents! This makes for a very happy heart in yours truly. We adore pumpkins around here: pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pancakes... Not to mention the zinc-rich pepitas! Raw is how we take those good ol' pumpkin seeds. Soaked and dehydrated first, if you please. Actually, let me clarify. Our all-time favorite (for both squash and seed) is the kabocha. If you can get your hands on some, do give them a try. Here's how we process our pumpkins (and kabochas):
First of all, turn on some music and light a fall-ish candle or two. Make it a special seasonal moment. (Before you know it, it'll turn into a yearly tradition.) My playlist includes Turkey in the Straw, bluegrass-style. There's the word "pumpkin" in it, and I like themes. It streamlines my brain, I think. Now, most recipes will tell you to use those cute lil' pie pumpkins. They can sometimes have a darker color, and some say they're sweeter, but let's be honest. Pretty much everything we make with pumpkin is sweetened, right? This time around, I'm using a ten pounder and I've had great success with these beasts. There are two ways I like to roast the meat, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
Cut your pumpkin in half. If it's a biggun like mine, cut each half into a few wedges or even into fourths. Scrape the seeds and stringy guts out with a spoon and put them in a bowl. Let's just keep them there for a minute. We'll come back to you, lovely pepitas.
There are two ways to roast a pumpkin:
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- Use the biggest glass pan you have (you may even need to use two), put about a cup of filtered water in the pan, place pumpkins flesh-down in the pan, and roast for about 1 hour or until you can stick a fork in it (hence the "fork" saying).
- Allow to cool, then scoop flesh out with a spoon into a food processor and pulse a few times to purée. You'll need to do this in a few batches. Over-stuffing the food processor leads to liquifying the bottom half and leaving a chunky top half. Store in glass mason jars. It freezes well (though I'd like to can it one of these days; my freezer is about to erupt with bulk-bought grass-fed beef, bone broth, and berries).
- Turn slow cooker on high, add a little water, stuff pumpkin slices in, and cook for about 4 hours.
- Allow to cool, then spoon into a food processor and pulse a few times to purée. You'll need to do this in a few batches. Over-stuffing the food processor leads to liquifying the bottom half and leaving a chunky top half. Store in mason jars. Freezes well (but I want to can it, I tell you!)
The oven. It's faster and the pumpkin isn't as watery once it's cooked.
On to the Pepitas:
First, squeeze the seeds out of the membranes and into a colander (see pictures above). I know that sounds gross, but it's really not. I promise. It's actually kinda therapeutic if you ask me. Treat the chickens to the gooey stuff. If you don't have chickens (I'm sorry), compost it along with the pumpkin skin and you'll give the earth a treat. Rinse the pepitas.
Here's the deal. I tried hulling a batch, thinking my family would appreciate them more, but I came to find out that they actually look forward to the salty, whole pepitas every year. Well that is just fine with me. Besides, I didn't have a good experience trying to hull them (I used this method). Please let me know if you've had success with this operation. I'd love to hear some tips.
The Riddle household pepita of choice is simply soaking them in a brine of water and about a tablespoon of Celtic sea salt overnight, draining them (don't rinse them), and then dehydrating them at 104º until crispy. You can add seasoning to the brine if you'd like, like garlic powder, parsley flakes, onion powder, etc. But my family is full of purists when it comes this, so I stick with just the salt.