Jack o' lanterns are one of my favourite things about Halloween - I enjoy them even more than the costumes. Checking out the spooky creations the neighbours come up with every year has always been a highlight of taking the kids trick-or-treating (the above photo is one of my husband's creations from a few years back when SpongeBob reigned supreme at our house).
The other thing I love about jack o' lanterns is that once you're done with them, you can eat them! While sugar pumpkins are the ideal type for eating, the large pumpkins sold at Halloween will still make an acceptable puree for use in baked goods (I've even made a respectable pumpkin pie with mine!)
Here's how to get the most eating out of your Halloween pumpkin:
1. When carving the pumpkin, scoop the soft "goop" into a clean bowl so you can save the seeds. After carving, take time to rinse the pulp away from the seeds. Once the seeds are thoroughly cleaned, they are ready for toasting.
2. Once you're done with your jack o' lantern on Halloween night, bring it inside (to protect it from pumpkin-smashing teenagers). Use it to make pumpkin puree the next day.
To make toasted pumpkin seeds:
I like to do mine on the stove top as I find it's the quickest and easiest method. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat then add the pumpkin seeds (the frying pan should be "dry" - do not add any fat or oil). Stir the seeds constantly until they are golden brown and pop open. Sprinkle the hot seeds with salt and/or other desired seasonings, then spread out on cookie sheets to cool thoroughly. Once they're cooled, transfer to an airtight container for storage.
To make pumpkin puree:
Cut your pumpkin into large chunks and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large baking dish. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the pumpkin is good and tender. Let cool to room temperature, then peel off the skin and puree in batches in the food processor (you can use a blender or mash by hand if you don't have a food processor, the food processor just makes the job a lot quicker). Freeze in 1 cup portions.
This puree can be used in muffins, quickbreads, pancakes, etc. If you have a favourite way to use pumpkin puree, I'd love it if you'd share it in the comments.