Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting Ready for the Holidays, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend doing lots of things to get ready for the holidays.  And one of them was baking pumpkins.  I bought them at a Farmer's Market a few weeks ago.  I spent a lot of time at Farmer's Markets this year.  At one point, I was doing 4 markets a week!  I did Greenfield on Wednesday morning, Shelbyville on Wednesday evening, Greensburg on Friday afternoon, and Rushville on Saturday morning.  I was around all of this beautiful produce 4 times a week so we ate good this year!!  I brought home fresh summer squash, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, berries, onions, green beans, and many other good things.  Late in the year I brought home locally grown apples and winter squashes.  So we expanded the variety of vegetables we were eating and they were fresher and less expensive that I would have gotten in the grocery store.  Plus when you buy local, you support your local economy.  I really enjoyed shopping the local markets because the growers also gave you ideas on how to prepare vegetables in different ways and they also offered heirloom varieties that you won't find in grocery stores.
Late in the season the farmer's brought in lots of fall goods:  colorful mums, gourds, pumpkins, indian corn -- I just LOVE the colors of fall!  I bought butternut squash, acorn squash, and even a grey-colored squash that I'd not seen before.  And they were all delicious!!  I plan to grow lots of winter squashes this next year. 
And while the large pumpkins for jack o' lanterns were impressive -- I was intrigued by the little pumpkins that were smaller than soccer balls.  These were 'pie' pumpkins.  They have thicker, sweeter flesh that those large 'jack' guys.  So I had to buy a couple of them and try them out.
I had never baked pumpkins before, but hey, it's no different than baking an acorn squash.  The worst part for me is cutting the little boogers open!  I use a large sharp knife to cut it in half.  Then I scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.  I place them face down in a baking pan and add a little water.  Then they go in the oven at 350 degrees and bake until they are tender.
Here are the lovely pumpkins that I baked.
I baked these for over an hour until they were fork-tender.  Then I sat them out into another baking dish to cool.  Aren't they a wonderful color!!?  And they smelled wonderful as well.  Once they were cool, I scooped out the inner flesh and left just the empty pumpkin shells to toss out into my compost.  Then I mashed the pumpkin flesh with a potato masher.  You could also run it through your blender or food processor if you like a smoother texture.
Here is my mashed pumpkin.  It's a little lighter in color than canned pumpkin.  The color will vary depending on the variety of pumpkin you buy.  There are many varieties of pumpkins.
So the pumpkin is baked and mashed and in the refrigerator.  I'm giving it to my sister Debbie today so she can make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving Day.  (She's the pie maker - not me!)  I'm baking the turkey and making the cranberry salad.
I plan to plant some pumpkins this year and would like to try a few varieties of pumpkins.  I'll be scouting the seed catalogs soon to decide which ones I want to try.  I hope to bring some to the Farmer's Markets this coming year and share with you all how rewarding it is to grow your own food, or at least buy from local growers.  I also plan to bake up some of those pumpkins and can the pumpkin pulp.  I may not be a pie-maker, but I make a mean pumpkin bread!  And maybe by this time next year, I'll be a pie maker too!
Later.........baking gingerbread men!

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