How I Make Peeling (and Cleaning) Pumpkin a Little Easier

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Sure, it's a cliche. But when October rolls around, I want pumpkin. No, not the flavor of pumpkin spice, but actual pumpkin. I love pumpkin soup, pumpkin chili, even pumpkin muffins, and it seems more festive to buy a fresh one than pick up a few cans of purée.

But peeling pumpkin is a pain, or it was until I learned a few tricks.

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Sadly, I know of no better way to remove the seeds than to just dig in to the slimy insides with my bare hands. When all the seeds are removed and rinsed, ready for roasting, there is still plenty of slimy pumpkin goo to be removed. In the past, I've scraped the inside with a large spoon, flinging bits of pumpkin around the room and into my hair. This year, I learned a new trick!

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My butter curler is the perfect instrument, especially since my visions of dinner parties with curled butter have not come to fruition just yet. Once the seeds are removed and the inside of the pumpkin is clean, the skin still needs to be removed.

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Did you know you could put half a pumpkin in the microwave? Here's how it works.

  1. Slice your pumpkin in half (or thirds or fourths, whatever will fit into your microwave) and clean it.
  2. Place the pumpkin pieces, cut side down, on a microwave safe dish with a little water in it.
  3. Microwave your pumpkin until the skin can be sliced away easily.
  4. Let the pumpkin cool enough so it won't burn your fingers.
  5. Slice away the skin and chop or purée the flesh as needed. If you're going for pumpkin purée, you can cook the pumpkin even longer and the skin will practically lift away without a knife.

The timing varies, depending on the size of your pumpkin. The enormous, microwave-filling pumpkin in my photos took a long time, about 20 minutes. It was soft enough to be puréed, and I used it for a creamy pumpkin soup.

Don't have a microwave or prefer to use the oven? You can bake your pumpkin pieces at 400° in a jelly roll pan with a little water for the same effect. Once again, the timing will vary according to the size of the pumpkin and what you have planned. I baked my second pumpkin half for just 15 minutes, so I could cube it for pumpkin chili.

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Note: Smaller pumpkins, often referred to as cooking pumpkins, will take less time.

Timing: Test for doneness every five minutes or so by poking the skin with a fork. If the fork goes through with ease, the pumpkin is ready, though you can leave it in longer if you plan to purée.

I love using an enormous pumpkin, because I save myself the trouble for our next meal. The cubes went in the freezer. Call me simple, but the sight of a gallon bag of cubed, fresh pumpkin in the freezer makes me a little giddy.

What ingredients do you love to eat but hate to prepare? Please share any tricks you've discovered!

(Images: Anne Postic)

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