Pumpkin are pretty darn great and highly underrated. I'm very pleased to have a family which regards them quite fondly when placed into pie, muffins and the occasional soup.
Shortly after he turned 4, The Barracuda and I were invited to a pumpkin carving party. We don't really carve them in our household, but I figured The Barracuda might like it. Just because Jules and I aren't into holidays doesn't mean he can't be.
He looked at me in completely confusion as we got out of the car in front of the party house. "Why are we doing this?" he asked.
"Because it is fun," I lied, "and they said there would be pizza."
His face became aghast. "Mom! Pumpkins are for eating, not fun!" This was quickly followed by, "Can I still have some pizza?"
Pizza can save everything.
And so it was settled. In our family, we eat pumpkins; we don't carve them. Now we grow Amish Pie pumpkins. We get very excited at counting just how many are growing rather than carving.
I must admit however, pumpkins are the drunken college roommate of the garden party. They are obnoxious, never stay where they are put, and tend to cling on to every other guest they come into contact with regardless of whether they are wanted. But you just have to love them even when you swear you won't ever invite them back. You always replant pumpkins.
Though pumpkins will keep just about the entire year in our root cellar, we don't eat them. It is as if the idea of cooking an entire pumpkin, removing the skin and then using the meat is just too time consuming or something. We now can our pumpkins so they are just a popped-top away from eating. It works much better.
To can pumpkins, the meat must first be cooked and removed. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out all the seeds. We don't roast the seeds, but we always set some aside to save for next year. In order for the seed to come true, heirlooms (or open pollinated plants) must be planted from different geneses. Here's a great list.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Adjust the racks so there is only one middle rack. Put the seeded pumpkin halves face down on an ungreased cookie sheet and put them into the oven. Only bake one set at a time or they cook unevenly and get burned.
Bake them until their skins begin to get loose and slightly bubble up. Poke them with an oven-mitted finger and you should be able to feel the loose skin. Generally, when you begin to smell them cooking, they are done.
Let the pumpkins cool before you decide to remove their skin. Not only are they really hot and ooze scalding pumpkin juice onto your fingers, but they are also all murshy when they are hot and don't peel well. Once cooled, the skin should peel back easily.
Break the pumpkin meat into pieces about 1 to 2 inches in size and drop them into the jar. You cannot puree pumpkin for canning because the viscosity cannot be controlled. Apparently, the USDA has decided this can kill you. Fill the jar with water leaving 2 inches to the top. Process at 11 pounds of pressure for 65 minutes (pints) and 75 minutes (quarts). By the time it cooks down, it is rather puree like anyway.