Although it is convenient to use canned pumpkin, it really is easier than you may think to cook your own pumpkin to use in pies and breads. First you have to be able to identify the right kind of pumpkin. The typical ones you see at the supermarket before Halloween are not suited to eating, they are not sweet and tend to be tough or granular. They are good for soapmaking though and if you are cooking a pumpkin to use in soap you can cook it the same way. For eating be sure to get a pie or sweet pumpkin. These are usually (not always) smaller, darker orange, and the ribs are fewer and less emphasized. See the picture above; the one on the left is a pie pumpkin, the one on the right is a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin.

Using a large, sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half longways – just next to the stem. Scoop out all those seeds and give them to your chickens; they will love them. If you don’t have chickens you can cook them for yourself or save the seeds to plant next summer. Put each half of the pumpkin open side down on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish. If you use a baking dish you can add about a cup of water to it so the pumpkin steams. I find it easiest to just roast the pumpkin face down though.

Put the pumpkin in the oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until soft. The time is not too important as it can overcook some and still come out good. I love doing this on a cool autumn afternoon because it warms the house and smells wonderful. Roasting enhances the natural flavor of most any vegetable, including pumpkin and make it sweeter.

Once the pumpkin is soft, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Using a large spoon begin to scrape the pumpkin flesh from the skin and put that into a bowl. Then using a stick blender, whiz the pumpkin flesh so that it is smooth. At this point you can go ahead and make your favorite pie or bread recipe or you can freeze it for use later. Or, if you are cooking this for use in soap, just substitute about a third of your water for pumpkin flesh in your favorite soap recipe. If you are looking for soap head over to my website. Pumpkin soap is seasonal though so it doesn’t always make it to the website. If you don’t see it there, email me.

Farmers markets should still have a good supply of pumpkins at this time of year so look for them if you have fall or winter markets.