I can't cut my pie pumpkins!
I just bought four "pie pumpkins" -- smaller pumpkins intended for use in cooking (not just display). However, when I attempted to cut them with my nearly brand-new Henckel's chef's knife, I could barely make a scratch on the surface. They are so hard on the outside and, because they are small, it is impossible to get a good grip without placing important body parts right in the way of the knife.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to cut these things? Are they not ripe yet? Should I soak them? Buy a chainsaw?
Last night, we cut the pie pumpkins without breaking any knives and with only one small cut on our hands! (Which, considering us, is quite an accomplishment.)
After reading everyone's great advice, I talked to the produce guy in the market. He said that the pumpkins were ripe, it's just that this style is notoriously hard. He suggested breaking it open with a screwdriver.
With some trial and error, what we ended up doing is:
-- Turned the pumpkin on its side and on the "hemisphere" of the pumpkin we took a knife and rotated it to make a slight hole.
-- Pushed the tip of a blade of a clean screwdriver in the hole.
-- With the tip of the screwdriver slightly wedged in, we hammered the screwdriver all the way through the pumpkin to the other side.
-- We repeated this process every inch around the entire pumpkin.
-- Once all the holes were in, we took a smaller utility style knife (more control than the chef's knife, actually) and essentially "connected the dots." Each pumpkin took a different style -- one we could simply insert the knife and then turn to create a crack that spread through, one required fully cutting from each hole to the next.
The whole thing must have taken around 30 - 45 minutes for 4 pumpkins (one of which was rotten -- I didn't follow the "smooth, unblemished and shiny surface" rule of pumpkin picking). Certainly a lot of work, but considering that
a) all of our fingers are fully attached
b) none of our knives or other implements are broken
c) the soup was darn good
we think the whole thing was worth it.
My mother-in-law carved a Halloween pumpkin at my place last week when I was away, and neatly snapped the blades off a Chicago Cutlery paring knife, a gorgeous Sabatier boning knife from the '30s, and a horn-handled antique steak knife, one of a matched set of six, that I had counted on to outlast my own mortal coil. The carnage was sort of breathtaking.
The devil's own fruit, it is.
If the pumpkins are small enough and your microwave is large enough, you can punch a couple of holes into each pumpkin (so they don't explode) and then zap them briefly, which should soften them up enough to cut. Or I once put a large pumpkin into an even larger pot and steamed it for a while.