Beneath its ghostly appearance, a white pumpkin hides a treasure trove of flavorful flesh and crunchy seeds. Whether you want to make a pie or a less-traditional dish, selecting the right white pumpkin variety is only part of the equation. The second essential part is knowing how to cut through the thick rind and cook the pumpkin until it's tender. Once you have these basics down, you can experiment with using this healthy vegetable in different types of recipes, both sweet and savory.
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Choosing a White Pumpkin
When you're buying a white pumpkin -- or any pumpkin, for that matter -- look for a gourd without any soft spots or large bruises. The pumpkin should feel firm, with its stem firmly attached. Store the pumpkin in a cool, dry spot until you're ready to cook with it. When it comes to selecting a specific variety, not all pumpkins are created equal in terms of flavor, consistency and texture. Some of the the white pumpkins you may find include:
- Baby Boo, a miniature variety with pearly skin.
- Cotton Candy, a whiter variety with tough skin that is best suited to decorating, although you can roast the seeds and experiment with the flesh.
- Lumina, a standard-sized variety that has sweet orange flesh with a smooth, texture.
- Full Moon, large pumpkins that typically have bland flesh, making them less suitable for cooking, and better for decorating.
- Valenciano, which look similar to Lumina pumpkins, but with deeper ribbing. The flesh is white and can be a little stringy and watery, but it makes tasty puree.
Cleaning and Cutting
Rinse the outside thoroughly to remove any dirt or residual grime. To cut the pumpkin, grab your heaviest, largest chef's knife and press the tip into the top of the pumpkin. Gradually apply steady pressure to push the knife into the pumpkin and then downward, wiggling your knife occasionally as you move downward to create a wider crack. Work the knife all the way down one side, from the stem to the bottom, and then repeat the process on the opposite side. Once you've completed the second cut, press down firmly to cut through the bottom. Pull the two halves apart. Remove the pulp, but reserve the seeds.
For the crisp results, rinse the seeds and let them dry for approximately 24 hours before roasting them.
Once you've prepped the pumpkin, season it as desired and choose the cooking method that suits your needs. Steaming, microwaving and baking work well for making puree. Roasting enhances the flavor, making it an ideal method when you're serving pumpkin as the star of your main or side dish.
Much like butternut and acorn squash, white pumpkin can be roasted to make a flavorful side dish all on its own. Alternatively, you can add the roasted pumpkin to salads, rice blends, pasta or other vegetables. Cut the pumpkin into uniformly sized 1/2-inch pieces. Coat them with the oil of your choice and toss them with salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkin for 15 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees F, stirring the pieces once or twice.
Steaming for Puree
To make homemade pumpkin puree for pies, cakes, cookies or soups, place the halved pumpkin with the cut side facing down in a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot with the water level just below the basket. Bring the pot to a boil, cover it with a lid and steam the pumpkin for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Once the flesh is tender, let the pumpkin cool before pureeing it in a food processor.
To bake the white pumpkin, halve it and place it in a baking dish with the cut side facing down. Bake it for one to two hours at 350 degrees F, allow it to cool enough to handle it and scoop the flesh out.
Boiled Pumpkin Cubes
After halving the pumpkin, peel it and cut it into equal-sized cubes. Boil the cubes in a pot of water or cooking stock for approximately 15 to 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.
If you want to cook a white pumpkin without heating up the oven, slice it into even-sized pieces, place the pieces in a microwave-safe bowl and cook the pumpkin on high for approximately 15 minutes, covered. Let the pumpkin cool before scooping the flesh away from the rind.
Toasting the Seeds
Crisp, crunchy pumpkin seeds make a tasty snack or a textural addition to salads, cereal, yogurt and baked goods. Toss the cleaned, dry seeds with butter or oil and the seasonings you like best -- cayenne, salt and garlic powder for spicy seeds, or brown sugar and cinnamon for a sweeter treat. Bake the seeds for 15 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees F, or until all of the seeds are crisp.