Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pumpkin: Fresh vs. Canned

This year, I decided to try making my own pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin.  However, I didn't want to have to find a "sugar pumpkin" or "pie pumpkin", so after much reading on the internet, I determined that I could use the pumpkins I bought for fall decorations.  You know, Jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  We didn't carve ours, so they were still fresh.  Plus, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $2.50 for a can of pumpkin (on sale, but I only spent less than $1 for the pumpkins I had:-).

So, I cut the pumpkin open, scraped out the seeds and stringy stuff, and then cut the pumpkin into about 8 large pieces and placed in a big pot with a steamer basket.  I steamed them for about 30 minutes until they were nice and soft.  After cooling, I used an ice cream scoop to scrape the flesh off the skin.  This I then pureed in my food processor and had about 6 cups of nice fresh pumpkin puree.  Since I had read that this type of pumpkin can be more watery than "pie pumpkins", I put the puree into a strainer to sit while I was finishing up the other puree (my food processor is pretty small.)  A good bit of water did strain out.

Then I used the fresh pumpkin puree for my pumpkin pie (I use a recipe that calls for sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk and sugar).  The recipe not only made one beautiful pie, but I also had enough filling left to make 12 little mini pumpkin tarts using a mini muffin pan and another refrigerated pie crust.  That was a good thing, because we would not have been able to wait a whole day to find out how it tasted:-)

Tasting has brought about the conclusion that fresh is much lighter and you can certainly taste the difference.  You can also see the difference because fresh pumpkin is more yellow than the canned, which I have learned is mostly butternut squash.  Yes, canned pumpkin is mostly made of butternut squash which is much more orange in color.  So that may account for the difference in taste also.

I do believe that after trying it this way, I may never  buy canned pumpkin again.  Plus, I have two more large pumpkins still waiting to be cooked up and made into pumpkin puree, so I will have quite enough to get us through the holiday season and winter.  I will be making pumpkin muffins, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin stew and many more dishes that include fresh pumpkin puree.

Have you ever made fresh pumpkin puree?  What is your conclusion?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tasty DNA and Spudoodles!!!

We are in the last couple of weeks of our Biology Co-op classes before holiday break and last week the students made Tasty DNA out of colored marshmallows, toothpicks and Twizzlers.
Then this week, we were studying Mendelian Genetics and in order to more fully understand the effects of the parents' genotypes on the offspring, the students created Spudoodles!  They are sort of like a version of Mr. Potato Head using a random selection from the mother's genotypes and the father's genotypes.  However, they really turned out cute, so I thought I would share.