Introduction: How to Clean a Pumpkin

A coworker gave my husband several pumpkins. I was left the task of turning these magnificent gourds into something edible. Dredging up 30+ year old memories of rural Missouri farm life, I realized that I had two options. I could use "Mom's way" - quarter the pumpkin, scrape the interior, peel and chunk the flesh and boil with some water until soft enough to process - but that tends to leave the pumpkin a watery, stringy, unappetizing mess. So, I decided to come up with "My way" - a combination of several methods suggested by friends that makes the least amount of effort provide the most yummy goodness. The instructible which follows (my very first! Yay!) is my kitchen-tested method of getting delicious flesh (and seeds) from pumpkins. I hope you enjoy.

For this method you will need:
a pumpkin
a large knife
a large spoon
a fork
a large bowl
a baking pan with 1" sides large enough to hold your pumpkin when cut in half
workspace (a bit of countertop is handy)
an oven
about an hour and a half - with nearly 50 minutes of that available to do other things.
a way to dispose of the scrap (guts and skins)
pot holders

a couple of paper towels or small container (for holding seeds)
a dishtowel (for creating a non-skid surface on the counter)

Step 1: Step One - Find Yourself a Pumpkin

I selected one of the traditional pumpkin-shaped beasts for this instructable, but this will work with any of the varieties shown. I know it will - because after hacking the one seen in the following steps apart for photos, each of the others met the same fate. Mmmm.

Step 2: Step Two - Inspect and Bathe Your Gourd

Give your pumpkin a little bath. No soap necessary, but you do want to get off any loose dirt and check for any soft/squishy/rotten areas. If you find areas of nastiness, take a moment to cut them away with a handy knife. Don't hurt yourself - knives tend to be sharp. If your knife isn't sharp, sharpen it first - dull knives are more likely to hurt you because they aren't working properly.

Now that your pumpkin is mostly clean and free of ick, it's time for the next step!

Step 3: Step 3 - Crack Her Open

Roll your pumpkin of choice onto its side. Notice the handy grooves? Well, if your pumkin has handy grooves, yay - use those as a sort of guide. If it doesn't (some of mine were smooth with spiffy patterns on the skin) just pretend there is a line from the stem bit down to the bottom bit (where the flower used to be, long, long ago.) Take your big, wicked knife and stab the point in along a groove (or an imaginary groove, depending on your pumpkin.) Push the handle of the knife toward the end of the pumpkin to start a split along the groove. Go ahead and cut through the old flower spot. Pull the knife out, turn the pumpkin around and work from the start of the cut you just made up to the stem. Don't bother trying to cut through the stem, it will break away in the next step.

Once you have one side of your pumpkin cut, take the knife out and roll the pumpkin over. Find the split where you cut through the flower spot, and slip that knife back in the gourd. Keep cutting until you make it back up to the stem end.

It sounds more difficult than it is. Essentially, you're cutting the beastie in half, ignoring the stem. Nothing to it, really.

Now, take the knife out and set it aside - somewhere safe and out of the way. You're done with the knife.

Pry open the cut near the flower end. Use your fingers. It should open right up. Just pull the halves apart until the stem end snaps open. Whee! A split pumpkin!

Step 4: Step 4 - Evisceration

This step is full of wonderful gooey-ness. Prepare to get messy, at least a little. If you want to save the seeds (maybe you want to plant more pumkins or like the yumminess of roasted pumpkin seeds) find something to put them on. I used a paper towel because it was handy. You could just as easily use a plate or bowl or any sort of container.

Stop! Take a second to set your oven to 350 degrees. Ok, now you may continue.

Take a large spoon and use gentle pressure to scrape the seeds away from the clingy, stringy, gooey mass holding them in place. If you start from the stem end and work down, they seem to pop out easier. Try for spoonfuls of seeds without much pumpkin guts attached. Dump these seeds onto your paper towel (or container or whatever.) When you have as many as you'd like to keep, start scraping harder with the spoon. If you dig into the flesh just a tiny bit, a thin layer may scrape away, making this bit less messy. Some of my pumpkins had this layer, some didn't.

Keep scraping with the spoon until all the guts are released from the flesh. Dump these guts into a handy container - mine went to our chickens, but it could be just as easily composted if you don't mind the excess seeds sprouting on your compost pile.

Now, repeat with the other pumpkin half. Nicely done! The difficult part is over. Really.

Step 5: Step 5 - Set and Forget

I rinse my pumpkins out once more, just to make sure all the icky bits are gone. Then, place one half on a baking pan, skin down- the pan needs about a 1" side. More is ok. Less is not recommended.

Fill the remaining pumpkin half with water. Somehow, this amount seemed to work regardless of what size pumpkin I was dealing with. I would imagine if you have a gigantic pumpkin, you'd not want an entire half full of water, but I digress.

Pour the water from the pumpkin into the pan. Place the water-bearing half next to its kin and carefully place the pan into the oven. Try not to spill the water.

Close the oven. Set a timer for 55 minutes. Go do other things.

This is a good time to sort out those pumpkin seeds we were playing with earlier. Or write an instructable.

Step 6: Step 6 - Fork and Flip

Ding! Your timer went off. What were you timing? Oh yes, pumpkin in the oven!

Use hot pads, the oven is rather toasty and the water in the pan is scalding. Gently pull out the oven rack about halfway - don't pull it out so much that the pan starts to tip.

Poke your pumpkin flesh with a fork. Does it go in somewhat easily? Sure it does. A little resistance is ok (it's futile, anyway.) Now we're at the tricky part. Careful not to burn yourself.

The object is to turn the pumpkin halves over so the skin side is up and the cut side is resting in the water. You might need to take your pan out of the oven to accomplish this. I used a fork and a hot pad and managed (somehow) to not burn myself on the side of the oven.

Just get them flipped over. Put them back in the oven (or just push in the rack if you used my dangerous method.) Set your timer for 15 minutes.

Walk away.

Step 7: Step 7 - Getting to the Good Stuff

Ding! There goes that pesky timer again. If you are out of pumpkins, turn your oven off. If not, leave it on in preparation for the next batch.

Remove the pan from the oven - careful of the hot water!

Use your fork to get under the edge of one pumpkin half. Lift it up enough to roll it onto a shallow bowl. If you're brave, roll it onto a hotpad that you're holding. Either way, get it rolled over so the flesh side is up and it's out of the pan.

Take your trusty seed-scraping spoon. Rinse it off if necessary. Start scraping hunks of flesh from the pumpkin. Try not to puncture the skin. Transfer the pumpkin flesh into a big bowl. Dream about pies and soups and pumpkin bread.

The pumpkin should be fairly soft so that it comes away from the skin easily. I found if I did not flip the pumpkins over for the additional 15 minutes, the pumpkin didn't want to release from the skin as easily.

Tuck the empty pumpkin skin into your "for the chickens" bucket - or composting bucket or let it cool and wear it as a hat. (I don't really recommend wearing it as a hat, but if you do, send pictures and I'll giggle.)

Now you have a big bowl full of tasty pumpkin flesh. Use a potato masher to squish it up for pie or keep it chunky for a spicy pumpkin soup or twirl it in a blender for pumpkin bread... the options are nearly limitless.

I hope this instructable was helpful.

Now, go release the inner goodness from a gourd near you!