Pumpkin Seed Trifecta: Salty, Spicy & Sweet

0102Well, the Last Fresh Pumpkin finally fell under my knife, and I’d say an October-harvested pumpkin lasting until mid-March (stowed away in my liquor cabinet) is pretty impressive. The flesh with still plump and orange, yet the middle had dried out enough to make harvesting the seeds a snap.  I made an heirloom bean mole’, froze some pumpkin chunks for later and whipped up some pumpkin seed love.

Pumpkin seeds are pretty easy; basically you just roast ’em. You can rinse them or not, cook long & slow at low heat, or short & crispy over high heat, and coat them with nearly anything that tickles your fancy.  Below are three of my favorites.

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Pumpkin Seed Trifecta

INGREDIENTS

Salty

  • 1 pumpkin (sugar pumpkin, pie pumpkin or Jack o’ Lantern; the seeds are good in each)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt

Spicy

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

Sweet (adapted from Honey-Roasted Walnuts in Homegrown by Michel Nischan)

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup local honey
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick

METHODS 

  1. Slice the pumpkin in half, using a strong, sharp chef\’s knife, from stem to blossom-end. Scoop the seeds and stringy middle out using a spoon, an ice cream scoop, a pumpkin-carving scoop, or your hands (the messiest, but often the easiest). Reserve the pumpkin flesh (if this is a good eating pumpkin; large Halloween Jack o\’ Lanterns are generally not the tastiest for eating).
  2. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp.  The best way to do this is to squish the seeds through your fingers into a bowl; discard or compost the pulp. Do not rinse the seeds – the pumpkin juice will carmelize slightly on roasting and will add flavor to your seeds. 
  3. Depending on how much pumpkin juice remains on your seeds, you may not need to add any olive oil at all; I find that adding just a little bit ensures a nice crisp finish to the shell after roasting, but if you\’d like to keep the recipe completely local, you can skip the oil.

 Salty0081

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In a small bowl, toss pumpkin seeds with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil (depending on how many seeds you have – about 1 tbsp per cup of seeds).  You want the seeds to be just lightly coated with the oil.
  3. Add in 1 tsp of salt for each 1/2 cup seeds.  I like my seeds very salty; you should be able to see salt coating the outside of the seed husks.
  4. Spread seeds on a rimmed baking sheet; make sure to separate the seeds (they should not be touching) so that they will roast; if piled together, they will take much longer to crisp and the meat of the seed can taste burnt. Bake for 20 – 50 minutes, or until the seeds have changed color slightly and become crisp.  Start tasting a seed or two at 20 minutes and check every 10 minutes or so until they taste good to you. The time can really vary depending on the size and age of the seeds, the type of pumpkin and the amount of olive oil.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to crisp on the baking sheet.  Store, uncovered, at room temperature.

  Spicy

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Combine spices, salt, olive oil and pumpkin seeds in a small bowl, tossing to coat well.  Spread evenly (seeds should not touch) on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 40-60 minutes. The longer roast at lower temperature keeps the spices from burning while producing a crisp shell and nicely roasted seed. (Salty seeds can also be made this way, if you\’d like to cook both varieties at the same time).  Taste a seed or two, starting at 40 minutes, and check every 10 minutes or so until they taste good to you. 
  3. Remove from oven and allow to cool and crisp on the baking sheet.  Store, uncovered, at room temperature.

 Sweet

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the honey, salt, cinnamon and cayenne in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stir once and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add pumpkin seeds to the pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat and drain pumpkin seeds in a sieve or colander (reserve the drained honey for future batches of seeds). Discard the cinnamon stick.
  4. Spread seeds on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet (seeds should not touch if possible) and roast for 15 – 30 minutes, or until the seeds darken slightly and you can smell pumpkin as well as spiced honey.  The seeds will not be crisp at this point.  Remove from oven.
  5. Let the seeds cool completely on the baking sheet; the seeds will crisp as they cool.  These are best when eaten within a day or two; otherwise store uncovered and spread on a plate or cutting board (piled into a bowl they tend to clump together), or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

OPTIONS

  1. The options are nearly endless; almost any dried herb or ground spice can be added to the mix and roasted with your pumpkin seeds, so experiment with your favorites.
  2. You can rinse the seeds, if it is simply too hard to separate out the seeds from the pulp without water, or if you like the seeds but not the taste of pumpkin juice.  If you do, rinse them under cool water, and spread them to air-dry, or roll in a clean kitchen towel, to remove as much water as possible prior to coating with spice and roasting.
  3. A quick & easy way to make spicy pumpkin seeds is to use combined spice packets or samples; I often receive small sample spice jars from Penzey\’s that are included with an order.  I don\’t tend to cook with such things, but they are very handy for a sprinkle over pumpkin seeds.  The seeds in the headline picture are actually Southwest Seasoning pumpkin seeds, a Penzey\’s mixture of salt, ancho pepper, onion, garlic, black pepper, Mexican oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, chipotle and cilantro.  It\’s that rarest of combinations: tasty, quick and free!

STORE

Crisp pumpkin seeds will tend to soften when stored in a Ziplock or other airtight container. I usually leave a small bowl out on the counter and they disappear pretty quickly.  The honey-roasted seeds will tend to clump together in warmer weather, so they are best stored in the fridge, or spread in a bigger bowl or plate on the counter. 

SEASON

Fall, winter and into spring.

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