Seeing as I – as well as many other food bloggers – are pumpkin-obsessed at this time of year, I thought that on this All Hallows’ Eve, I’d share some helpful hints for peeling sugar pumpkin. It’s particularly helpful as we exit the Jack o’ Lantern – and therefore, decorative – phase of our autumn, and enter into the sugar pumpkin, practical food use phase. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, and fresh sugar pumpkin sublime, and, yes, sweet, in flavor, why settle for canned? A few simple steps will help you get through the peeling. Or at least help you to realize that peeling takes the time it takes. Sometimes, just knowing makes it less tedious, I find.
First, as we discussed in the pumpkin scones post, you want to seek out a sugar pumpkin that is heavier than its appearance would have you think.
Second – and most important in the peeling endeavor – try to find a pumpkin that has the least deep ridges in its skin. Please see the above picture for a bad choice of pumpkin – this is what happens when one isn’t paying enough attention while at the farm stand.
Once home, use the stem as a handle to help maintain control of the pumpkin while peeling with your trusty vegetable peeler. I find that peeling is most successful when I peel crosswise around the girth of the pumpkin. Don’t fret about any deep ridges at this point, just try to clean up the pumpkin as best you are able, we’ll deal with pesky, embedded pumpkin skin later.
If the stem can be removed easily once the pumpkin is mostly-all-the-way peeled, cut it off, and then cut the pumpkin in half, or as close to half as you can manage with a stubborn stem in the way. Scoop out the seeds, rinse them in a small colander, removing any stray pumpkin flesh, then dry them with a kitchen towel. Because I hate to waste food and because roasted pumpkin seeds are as addictive as popcorn to JR and me, I toss them with a little bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper, then roast them in one layer on a 9 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they are golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. They also serve as a reward for contending with skin removal. Feel free to add cayenne pepper or cinnamon or some other seasoning of your choosing, I’ll get there eventually, but have been savoring these early batches in plain and simple mode.
Now that the pumpkin is halved, use the vegetable peeler to get in a little deeper to remove the remaining skin. During this phase, anything goes: crosswise, lengthwise, diagonal peeling – whatever you have to do. If there are pesky bits still remaining at the point when you’ve tapped all of your pumpkin-peeling patience, start cubing the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes, and use your knife to cut off those last pieces of skin from your cubes.
While the process can be slightly tedious if you, like me, start thinking of what calls you need to make, or what bills need to be paid, or how much laundry is piling up when you should be analyzing pumpkin forms for the least amount of ripple, causing you to arrive home with a peeling challenge, the flavor of fresh sugar pumpkin is well worth the effort. You can roast it for use in savory dishes (honey roasted pumpkin and beets? Oh, that sounds good!) or boil it until softened to make a puree for pies, scones, or (coming soon to a Poor Girl Gourmet post near you) pumpkin pancakes.