Yes, you CAN eat your Jack O Lantern
For the past few years, I have been telling everyone how wonderful baked pumpkin is. What usually happens next is a few raised eyebrows because most people, if they bake pumpkin at all, get the cute little bitty ones and turn them into pies.
When I mention that the day after Halloween I start baking the decorations, people politely (or impolitely) express disbelief.
It drives me bananas to know that in a time when nutritionists are lamenting that people don’t eat enough freshly prepared food, that in America, people all over the socio economic spectrum are throwing gallons of good food into the gutter every November first.
I’m not a nutritionist. However, my Laura Ingalls Wilder books told me about pumpkins grown for food, and really, they didn’t have time to grow stuff just to decorate. My cooking encyclopedia from the 60s also praises pumpkin as a side dish, stewed, and for pies. In my own kitchen, pumpkin is used in desserts, in bread, to thicken stew, and in more desserts.
So, in time for Halloween, here it is: You CAN safely eat your jack o lanterns.
It does require some forethought.
I wouldn’t use pumpkins carved for days and sitting open on the porch facing the street for food. Then again, my family never carved the pumpkins until Halloween morning so it is not an adjustment for me to have them fresh.
Do wash them. Internet sites will say to use a solution of water and bleach, but please don’t do that. Baking soda and water will do fine. After you carve the pumpkin, wash out the inside, too.
Put the candle (short one so it does not burn the pumpkin) in one of those glass tea light holders. I do that anyway, because there is usually a breeze on my street and the glass keeps the candle from going out.
You can go ahead and leave the pumpkin out all night if you live in a cool area. (Get the candle out first.) Your porch will not be germier than your kitchen and in my neighborhood, Halloween night is just as cool as the fridge. If you have a lot of teenagers around, don’t leave your pumpkin on your porch. Or they will smash your food.
Next day, get the pumpkin and wash it in just water. Turn it upside down, put it on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until it softens. I can’t say how long because that depends on the size of the pumpkin, but even a little one will be at least an hour.
When it cools, it will be disgusting, browned or blackened, and squishy. However, it is still food. Be sure to warn any visitors that go into your refrigerator why you have a black mass in there, or they won’t return for another visit.
After it is cool, you can scrape the pumpkin goodness out, but I find it is easier to just rip off the skin, that will peel easily like a cooled baked potato.
In sections that about half fill your blender, whirl it around until you have puree. Do NOT over fill the blender or nothing will happen. You may need to put a bit of water in to hasten the puree.
You can season it if you like, but I don’t, because I don’t know yet whether this batch will be pie or stew. I freeze mine in amounts of one to two cups.
If you are really pressed for time, you can freeze the pumpkin (without pureeing) in chunks but that will make more work for you later.
OK! Now don’t throw away perfectly good food! There are children starving in Wal Mart.
Eat your pumpkin.