Pumpkin pumpkin, how do I cut thee?
- withabandon Oct 29, 2009 08:49 PM
Tonight i made a wonderful carmelized pumpkin and onion " sauce" for pumpkin pasta. I found a recipe that was right up my alley on the internet. Just pictures and descriptions. Creamy Pumpkin Penne should take you to it. I didn't use penne, I had some fresh pumpkin linquine, which was the inspiration in the first place. I bought a small cooking pumpkin and then struggled to cut it up. I searched the site here for help, but what I found were suggestions that didn't address the process exactly.
I tried to cut it by cutting off the ends and then slicing off the peel, like i'd do with a cantaloupe that I wanted to cut up into chunks or small slices.
I think I don't necessarily have the correct tools or technique for cutting up a cooking pumpkin. The recipe was good enough to do this again.
And yes I already know I could substitute a squash, so please let's stick with techniques and tools for actually getting the peel away from the raw pumpkin so it can be cut for a recipe that isn't pie ( in which case, I'd buy it in a can instead of in a peel)
For cutting it up, a cleaver or a really sturdy chef's knife are the preferred tools - you did not say what you used. An electric knife would work, too. If you microwave it for a few minutes, it will still be essentially raw, but the skin softens just a bit, so it yields to peeling with a sturdy paring knife.
It doesn't need piercing because it's not in long enough to cook through, but I would halve it first, anyway. I agree with the other posts suggesting roasting first if you don't need solid pieces in the finished dish. If you do, another source for peeling ideas would be to find recipes for the candied pumpkin that is a popular confection in the middle east. I don't know what it is called but have sampled it. They are solid, chewy chunks that look like candied ginger.
Raw pumpkin is rather difficult to peel, to say nothing of the safety factor (!). I have to say I haven't seem many recipes that start with "Peel the pumpkin..." I'm not real clear about what form the pumpkin needs to be in, and from the recipes for Creamy Pumpkin Penne I googled, the pumpkin was pureed, which says to me that you should roast the pumpkin initially, remove the flesh from the skin and puree. Much easier. Roasting also enhances flavor.
If it's chucks of fresh pumpkin you want for your endeavor, break the veggie beast down into managable chunks and use a good peeler or a sharp paring knife. And be careful.
The "like i'd do with a cantaloupe that I wanted to cut up into chunks or small slices." would be how I'd approach it, if I was brave/fullof energy/had good medical coverage.
The best you can do is try.
I've struggled with this also. I bought several pumpkins on sale since most people go straight for the canned these days, so I've gotten a good system down.
I've found the peeler is near useless. You have to go over the skin numerous times to get past the pithy part and to the pure orange flesh and you have the deep grooves to deal with.
First I open it like for a jack-o-lantern and dig out the majority of the seeds for roasting. Then I cut the pumpkin into wedges, like pie slices, following the natural vertical grooves. That gives you a good flat surface to work with, because they're so slippery. Then I cut the wedge in half width-wise. Then I cut them into strips again following the natural grooves. Then I lay the strip on a cutting board, take a sharp pairing knife and run it along the skin and clean up the seed side too. This leaves pure clean flesh and it goes faster than the description makes out. Once you get the hang of it you can fly, and this method is a lot cleaner since those peelers always make a mess.
Pictures would help but I've already done up several pumpkins. I'll keep an eye out for more sales after Halloween and maybe document it better.
The two times that I have done this, I cleaned out the interior of the pumpkin, cut the pumpkin into 2 inch by 2 inch cubes and then trimmed off the skin of each piece with a chef's knife. The repetition involved is somewhat time consuming, but it beats the heck out of trying to force your chef's knife into a large rock-hard pumpkin piece. Also, it gives you lots of leverage on each piece, so the cutting is not difficult.
However, the two times that I have done this, after cooking the pumpin chunks, the net result did not taste any different, in my opinion, than canned pumpkin. The only difference was that the fresh cooked pumpkin was a little thinner, due to a higher water content. I hope that this helps.
Cut the pumpkin in half, empty out the guts, and roast it first. If you're going to puree it anyway, why bother with the whole peeling bit? I do think fresh tastes better than canned- more earthy-- but it is a subtle difference. There is no way I would waste time peeling a pumpkin unless I really, really needed it to remain in nice chunks in the final dish. Even then, I would probably try to roast it for a short time to soften it up a bit.
The recipe I used called for thin slices of RAW pumpkin. It never got pureed, but did get soft. Canned pumpkin would sort of work for this recipe, but would essentially create an entirely different texture for the finished product. I appreciate all the tips. I think my technique was in the right direction- though I didn't think to make chunks and then get the peel off with a small paring knife-- that would make more sense. Fearing for the integrity of my fingers and even my hand I left a lot of the pumpkin unused. I think microwave for a couple of minutes, then slice and chunk and then peel-- would be the best way to go, gleaned from all of your suggestions. Thanks very much. The bottom line is I think I need a new chef's knife-- even with my new sharpener, it's still not sharp enough! Anyway, thanks everybody-- and hope you all enjoyed Halloween!