Varieties of Pumpkin
'Sugar Pie' pumpkin--convenient in size, good in flavor and texture--is the cultivar most marketed to consumers for use in making pumpkin pie. Large jack-o-lantern types are not recommended for use in pie; their flesh is not as desirable when cooked, and their large size makes them hard to cut.

There are several ways to cook pumpkin:
• microwave
• pressure cooking
• steaming
• boiling
• sautéing
• baking/roasting

Oven roasting is my preferred cooking method, because it results in optimum flavor and nutrition. Roasting is a dry heat method that locks in the pumpkin's water soluble vitamins, while caramelizing the natural sugars on the surface of the flesh.
Cutting Pumpkin
To avoid getting hurt from cutting a pumpkin (or winter squash) with a really tough outer rind, simply roast it whole until the skin is soft enough, then cut it. I had to resort to that last season when I purchased an unknown variety of pumpkin that was small in size and was impossible to cut through!
Easy steps to Roast Pumpkin (or winter squash)
A 5 pound sugar pumpkin will yield approximately 3 cups of cooked squash.

1) Line your baking sheet-pans(s) with aluminum foil.

2) Wash your pumpkin (or winter squash) to remove any dirt and bacteria from the surface. DRY well.

3) On a cutting board, cut the pumpkin in half. Be very careful to avoid injury.
STOP trying to cut through the pumpkin if it is too hard, skip to step 6.

4) If you want to save the seeds for a nutritious snack or for future planting, scoop them out. I often leave them in and roast the pumpkin seeds and all; they scoop out easier after roasting.

5) Rub the flesh of the cut side with olive oil or lightly spray with a non-stick spray and place cut side down on the baking sheet.

6) Roast for 50 minutes at 375°F (190°C)*, then check to see if the flesh against the foil is beginning to brown and caramelize. Baking time will vary depending on the variety and size of your pumpkin or squash.
* Whole pumpkin: if you had to bake the whole pumpkin, check after 30 min. to see if the skin is soft enough to cut. Return to step 3.

7) Cook longer if necessary, until you see browning around the edges. Turn the pieces over, and if you left the seeds in, you can now easily scoop them out with a spoon.

8) At this point the pumpkin is cooked. If you want to can the pumpkin, do not cook it too soft. The flesh can be cubed and preserved using a pressure canning process. If you are going to mash and puree the pumpkin, you want it well done. If necessary, bake for another 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Let cool.

Dave's Garden member Shirley Edwards (Sesitz) from Fort Worth, TX cooks her pumpkin similarly to the steps above, only she places it cut side up on the baking sheet. After it is cooked and cooled, she says, "Remove the skin and cut it into one inch cubes and pack into sterilized jars. Add boiling water to 1/2 inch of jar top." She also adds salt*, then processes it in a weighted-gauge pressure canner at 10lbs pressure, 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Shirley's method complies with the USDA's recommendation for the home canning of pumpkin.
* Salt is optional, added salt is not required.

9) Scoop out the flesh and puree or mash until smooth. This can be done with a potato masher, ricer, hand held blender, food processor or blender. Don't worry if you have a few undercooked lumps, when used in a pie recipe, just strain the custard as directed in the recipe.

10) If your puree is extra-watery, strain it to remove the excess water.
Occasionally a particular pumpkin or squash may have a high moisture content.

11) Store in airtight container(s). Cooked puree should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks. If longer storage is preferred, pumpkin puree can be frozen. For best results, allow the puree to come to room temperature before using in recipes.