How to savor your carved creation

The eve of the great pumpkin is over for another year. What to do with them now? Soft, rotting pumpkins may be smashed and composted or tossed into the garden area and covered with soil or other material.

Next spring, it will not be too surprising to discover sturdy young pumpkin plants growing in that area. This is one very successful way to perpetuate a pumpkin crop.

If you chose to discard seeds and pulp while transforming an uncut pumpkin into a carved jack-o'-lantern, remember to save a seed or two to start your own pumpkin patch in some corner of the yard.

This year's pumpkin, carved or not, may be put to good use before composting becomes the only alternative. If you'd like to cook them, choose the smallest, often known as sugar pumpkins. These have a sweeter, more delicate flavor than the enormous field pumpkins and lend themselves well to cooking.

Cut up and peel small ones. Dip chunks into beaten egg and roll in a mixture of bread crumbs and grated cheese. Fry in vegetable oil until tender and serve hot.

If the seeds are still around in one form or another, pull off all fibers. Place seeds on a cookie sheet. Season with salt and melted butter. Heat oven to 250 degrees F. and bake seeds until they are crisp.

If your pumpkin is still whole, there is no need to hurry about deciding its impending fate. Stored in a cool basement or porch, it will last for months as long as it is not subjected to freezing temperatures.

Do not place it near a window as the light will hasten deterioration, and never set a pumpkin on a cement floor since this promotes rot. Allowing part of the stem to remain in place also encourages preserva-tion.

Later this month or next, that stored pumpkin can come in handy. Use it for traditional holiday pies, or be more original with pumpkin cakes, breads, or muffins. Another use for this large vegetable is pumpkin soup.

Remove the top of a pumpkin and set it aside. Scoop seeds and strings from interior. Fill cavity with layers of cheese, cooked minced ham, and croutons.

Combine 2 cups of cream with a generous pinch of nutmeg plus salt and pepper. Pour mixture into pumpkin shell. Add more cream if desired.

Cover pumpkin with foil and place in a baking pan. Bake 11/2 to 2 hours in a preheated 325 degree F. oven, stirring at several intervals. Remove cooked pumpkin from oven, place on a large dish, and replace pumpkin lid. At the table, serve soup from your pumpkin tureen.

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