Using the Whole Pumpkin - How to Carve, Puree, Cube, Snack and Display your annual Halloween Jack-O-Lantern!!!
Did you know that you can eat a carving pumpkin? Yes you can! A carving pumpkin, aka Jack-o-lantern, is just as edible as it's small sized siblings that are more commonly used in the kitchen. There are also no toxicity issues as some have feared. If that were the case, I would not be sitting here sharing this with you today...I have eaten a TON of it over the last few days lol. Plus, my presently living and breathing boxer decided to sneak half a pan for himself while I wasn't looking. Bad dog!!
The main concerns about eating a Jack-O-Lantern are that many have been sprayed with pesticides. As with many other thick skinned vegetables, they are safe to eat as the pesticides do not typically penetrate to the insides. Just don't eat the outer shell and you'll be fine. If you still feel uneasy about it, you can sometimes get a pesticide free pumpkin from your local farmers market or health food store, however, organic pumpkins are extremely rare and may not be very easy to find.
Some people also claim that the carving pumpkin is not as flavorful as the small ones specifically bred for pumpkin dishes. I thought mine tasted wonderful! I used it in my Pumpkin Flan with Maple Glaze (coming soon), Wilted Spinach, Pumpkin and Apple salad (coming soon), as well as some pretty tasty roasted pumpkin seeds! If you are still skeptical of eating a carving pumpkin, you can choose a smaller variety, just try to buy the largest one possible. You will still be able to use the entire pumpkin as shown in this article.
After I did all the research to make sure a carving pumpkin was safe to eat, I decided to go for it! How many times do we just use a carving pumpkin for fun Halloween decorations without taking full advantage of what it can offer?!? So at the risk of ending up on Extreme Cheapskates, here it is: How to use the entire pumpkin, without throwing anything away :)
What you'll need:
1 Carving Pumpkin (or a large pumpkin pie variety)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
Large cutting board
4 medium to large sized bowls
Baking sheets lined with parchment paper
Gallon freezer bags
Wash the Jack-o-lantern in the sink with soap and water to remove any mold or dirt from the outside. This will help to preserve the life of the pumpkin.
Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the top off of the pumpkin by carving a circle out around the stem. Keep this piece as it will go back on as your topper. Make sure your knife is at an angle pointing in toward the middle of the pumpkin so the topper will fit back on without falling into your pumpkin. Super annoying when that happens...
Complete the circle and pull the top off. Set aside.
Using a medium sized knife, make a slit one each side of the pumpkin as if you are going to cut the whole pumpkin in half...because you are :) Surprise!!!
Finish cutting down the sides of the pumpkin one side at a time. I found this was easiest using a bread knife. Make sure your knives are SHARP! This makes all the difference in your pumpkin project. If your line start to swerve off course, just readjust and keep cutting. Cut your lines all the way through until they meet on the bottom and split the pumpkin open into two parts.
Time to clean out the seeds. The easiest way is to grab the orange pulp (gently) with your hands and the seeds will slide out easily. Place them in a bowl and set aside for later.
Once all the seeds have been removed, use a spoon to carve out the bright orange pulp all the way down to the light colored pumpkin meat. Place all the pulp in the second bowl (not the one with the seeds in it).
Without cutting through the outer shell, slice some of the pumpkin meat off the sides of the pumpkin. Cut off as much as you can and place into the third bowl.
To get the rest of the meat out, use a spoon and scrape against the inside of the pumpkin. It will create pumpkin shavings. Place all the shavings in the last bowl.
It may be easier to stand the pumpkin half up and scrape the meat down onto a piece of waxed paper.
Scrape down as far as comfortably possible without going through the outer shell. Notice the difference in sizes between the shaved pumpkin on the right and the non-shaved pumpkin on the left.
Don't forget to save the meat from the topper! Make sure you save the top stem with about an inch or two of the meat.
Place all the shavings on parchment lined baking sheets. You may need to do this step in multiple batches depending on your pumpkin size.
Coat each pan with 2 TBSP of coconut oil. This helps to give the pumpkin a richer flavor for the recipes. Bake for 40 min.
While pumpkin shavings are baking, roughly dice the rest of the pumpkin meat and place on another baking sheet.
Coat diced pieces with 2 TBSP oil and set aside until oven is free. Once open, bake for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, while the pumpkin insides are cooking, start carving the face. Lay the half you plan on carving rounded side up on cutting board.
If your pumpkin is not level, use a folded washcloth to make sure the pumpkin is not wobbling back and forth (don't want to cut yourself!). Draw a face on the pumpkin with a magic marker. Mine was very basic. I am good with food...not so much with drawing lol...
Carve the face out with a knife and place the scraps in the bowl with the orange pulp. If the pieces are super large, break them down to a more manageable size. Do not throw anything away! Remember...we are using the ENTIRE pumpkin in this project :)
I decided he needed eyebrows.
Once the pumpkin is carved, squeeze one lemon into an empty bowl and add 2 TBSP water. Brush lemon mixture all over the inside and outside of the pumpkin to help preserve it. Set aside until the lemon juice has dried on the outside.
Once the pumpkin shavings are done, let cool for 10 min. Pick up the parchment paper and let the shavings fall into a food processor. Do not put the parchment paper in the processor. But you knew that. Just making sure... :)
Alternately, you can use a spatula to scrape it from the pan into the processor. Puree each batch for at least 2 minutes or until creamy.
Take a glass and place a bag in it with the top of the bag flipped over the outside of the glass.
Place 1 cup of pumpkin puree in the bag and seal. Do this for each cup of pumpkin puree until the mixture is evenly divided among the bags. Repeat this process with the cooked diced pumpkin as well. Store all sandwich bags in one large freezer bag and freeze for later use.
Ok! It is time to put humpty dumpty back together again! I used super glue, but feel free to use a hot glue gun if you are more comfortable with that. Squeezable super glue gel worked the best for me. You will need to work fast before the glue sets. Place the back part of the pumpkin, rounded side down, on the cutting board. Once the glue is on, immediately place the front of the pumpkin onto the back. Make sure the edges line up and hold in place for a minute or so until the glue is set. If you are like me you will get super glue on your fingers. Nail polish remover will take it right off. You're welcome.
Stand the pumpkin up and reinforce the sides with glue if needed.
Place on a piece of plywood or large cutting board covered in foil. Arrange the leftover "guts" falling out of the mouth of the pumpkin. Naughty cannibal pumpkin...don't you know what happens when pumpkins eat pumpkins?!?
You can either set the pumpkin up for display with candles as a great accent or...
Wrap it completely in saran wrap and place into the fridge until the big day! I live in Florida...we typically don't put pumpkins out until the day of or a few nights before Halloween so it doesn't mold too quickly.
Once the pumpkin is put away or out for the world to see and the pumpkin meat is all cooked, heat the oven to 450°. Take the bowl with the pumpkin seeds and clean off any remaining orange pulp. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp chili powder.
Roast until golden brown and crispy for about 8 to 10 min. I like mine a little over done, so I tend to leave them in for the full 10 minutes.
I don't know about you, but I feel a strange happiness knowing that I got as much out of this pumpkin as possible. I hope you all get that same feeling. You are not an extreme cheapskate...you are a person that knows to appreciate something for it's full potential. Have a safe and fun Halloween everyone!
Please send pics of your carved pumpkins to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will upload them to a future post!!