making a dish with pumpkin tomorrow. what are the best pumpkins for eating? I want to do a small dice and caramelize them. is there a major difference in size? I'm thinking a smaller one would be sweeter and caramelize better. Is this correct?
cooking with pumpkins
The answer to that is quite simple: what's available by you?
In general, markets carry one of two types of pumpkins: jack-o-lantern types, and cooking (usually called "pie") pumpkins. You want to avoid jack-o-lantern types because they tend to be stringy. So you're left with the pie pumpkins---which tend to be smallish, often running less than five pounds.
Sweetness, however, is a function of variety, not size. The best are the so-called "cheese" pumpkins; named so because they resemble old-fashioned cheese boxes. Among these are Long Island Cheese; Connecticut Cheese; and KY Flat Tan. These are not likely available in your local markets, however.
Keep in mind, though, that there is no such thing, horticulturally, as a pumpkin. We find "pumpkins" in all four of the commonly grown squash species. And many other winter squashes actually are equal or better than most pumpkins for cooking. F'rinstance, you might try butternut squash for your dish. It has a tight texture and high sugar content, making it ideal for you use.
Along with that idea, most commercial canned pumpkin is either Hubbard or Cushaw squash. They are often available in markets this time of year, but they tend to be rather large, often running 30-55 lbs.
More and more we're seeing Asian squashes in local markets, such as Kabocha and Red Kuri. If those are available they might be your best choices.
Although I've never seen them in regular markets, the various sweet potato squashes sometimes appear at farmers markets. If you can find any of those they may be the best choice altogether.
Your plan is to serve squash twice in the same meal? That's all pumpkin is: a winter (i.e., hard shelled) squash. Not the sort of thing I'd do, but each to his own.
All pumpkins are high in saccarine. Indeed, in the 18th century, pumpkins were often used to make a syrup, similar to maple syrup, and was otherwise used as a sweetening agent. So there's no need to add additional sweeteners.
You had asked for info on the "best" pumpkins for eating. And that's what I tried to provide. Sorry if I misunderstood you.
Shnooky, although we tend to think of pumpkin as an ingredient for sweets and baked goods, don't neglect the myriad of savory dishes that use it too. Everything from breads (both yeast and quick breads), to soups, to main dishes and sides.
And, as I indicated above, most of the time you can substitute one winter squash for another. This is certainly true among all the orange-fleshed ones. So, if you can't find culinary pumpkins as such, use one of the other squashes.
As a substitute for the squash commonly known as pie pumpkin, you cannot beat BUTTERNUT SQUASH. Available in most US markets. Typically weighing in between 3 to 5 pounds, this vegetable has a light tan skin, but the dense flesh is dark orange and buttery in texture, easy to peel, with only a small seed cavity that is very easy to clean. It's easy to steam in the pressure cooker. Peel and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks, place into steamer basket over 1 cup of water, season to your liking (I sprinkle with a little salt), lock on the lid and bring to pressure and time for 5 to 8 minutes (depending on size of the chunks). Allow pressure to drop naturally. It should be fork tender. Then you can caramalize and season for a savory dish, or puree and use as you would pumpkin. Some people boil it, but that makes it waterlogged and weakens the flavor. Steamed or baked is the best method of cooking.