Is Fresh Pumpkin Worth the Work?
Only if you can get your hands on the right variety of pumpkin. “Luxury” pumpkin is an heirloom kind that is perfect for pies, cookies whatever. Do not try to use the big, old jack-o-lantern types. They were bred to have thin sturdy walls for easy carving, not for flavor. The most available cooking pumpkin is the sugar pie pumpkin. It’s OK, but the texture and flavor don’t compare to the Luxury.
One year I couldn’t find Luxury pumpkins and used regular pie pumpkins instead. Next year I went back to canned. (And did you know that canned pumpkin is not exactly pumpkin? It’s usually made from a variety of different squashes chosen for flavor and texture rather than our orange friend?)
Luxury pumpkins aren’t beauties, but they have nice thick walls and are easy to hack up and bake and the flavor is fresh and slightly sweet. It takes 30 to 40 minutes in a 350°F oven. Then scoop out and purée the flesh. I freeze the purée in containers that have enough to make one pie. Then it’s just as easy to thaw as it is to open a can and I’m set for Thanksgiving baking.
Now about the flavor. Tasted side-by-side, the difference between a spoonful of fresh pumpkin puree and one from a can is jaw-dropping. Fresh is soft and fluffy and tastes like a sunny fall afternoon. Canned tastes, well, canned, with a sad metallic twang.
Admittedly if you are going to add tons of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg (be sure to grind it fresh, but that’s another post) to a pumpkin dessert, it may not be worth the extra time to use the real thing. I did a taste test with a few friends of pumpkin bars I made with fresh vs. canned and about half the testers preferred the ones made with canned pumpkin. (Although they could all tell the difference and they all liked both kinds.)
I won’t bother to give you recipes for pumpkin bars or pumpkin pie since they are everywhere on the internet and you probably have your own traditional ones, too.