the great pumpkins

I love u-pick it orchards and pumpkin patches, but in a pinch we city kids made for the grocery store on Sunday in search of some pumpkins to carve. Frankie planned an entire day of Halloween activities that began with some awesome dessert-like pancakes at the Bongo Room for the guys and a huge croissant sandwich for me. We bought way too many pumpkins (and too much pumpkin beer) and headed back to listen to Frankie's spooky Halloween mix and make a mess.

Phil and I were brought to fisticuffs at one point. I spent over an hour just separating seeds from pulp before I even started carving. Our four large and two small pumpkins yielded nearly ten cups of seeds. I rinsed them in hot water and spread them on a few pans to dry while we watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Here Frankie lights the candles so we can see our finished products. From left to right: Frankie's Sully, Allison's Pac-man, Kris' Haunted House, Allison's Stripes, Kris' Lenny, Allison's Freckled Cyclops.

Ideally, you should let your seeds dry out overnight. But I used a shortcut: some paper towels. Last year, we baked our seeds two ways (candied and with garlic & olive oil). This takes a while and involves stirring and turning the seeds often. I'd read a bunch of reviews on Epicurious and Food Network that indicated pan toasting the seeds would yield a smokier flavor and would be faster, so I tried the new approach on the stove instead of in the oven.

Three approaches to Pumpkin Seeds

-Dry roasting. Simply throw a cup or so of seeds into a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir often and watch closely. They'll pop and turn golden brown. Once browned, mix in a bowl with a little olive oil or melted butter (a teaspoon or so) along with salt and/or spices. This worked well, but required a lot of attention. They need to be cooked until they are almost burned to elicit a good crunch.

-Cooking in a small amount of oil. Add a tablespoon of oil and a cup of seeds to a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir often and watch closely. They'll pop and turn golden brown. Once browned, mix in a bowl with salt and/or spices. This was also successful and required a little less attention.

-Cooking in caramelized sugar and butter. Add butter, sugar, and spices to a saute pan until sugar is caramelized. Add seeds and stir until puffed and golden. This method failed on two different attempts. The seeds never really cooked enough and stayed slimy with a chewy texture no matter how long they cooked at different temperatures. The spicy sugar was tasty, so a better method might involve dry toasting the seeds and mixing them with the caramelized sugar afterward.

Don't walk away from the stove and stir or shake the pan regularly. I got distracted by a story about Emily Dickinson's love life and scorched a cup of seeds. But I'm still swimming in them.

Four different flavor batches were made (in addition to the failed candied ones mentioned above).

olive oil, curry powder, kosher salt

olive oil, kosher salt

melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice

olive oil, cumin, season salt

Perhaps I will set aside some time for a trip to an orchard in the next few weeks. I love filling up my whole crisper drawer with apples to make sauces and pies. We could also pick up some more pumpkins to carve when ours get kicked in by the drunken Bucktown hipsters (or hopefully just shrivel).