One of my favorite Halloween traditions is bringing the kids to the pumpkin patch to pick out the one that has the best jack-o’-lantern-potential. Mind you this is no easy task, which is why we generally end up transporting three or four worthy candidates back to the house for consideration. Our pumpkin preferences read like a page out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. My oldest daughter Chandler is always attracted to the largest pumpkin on the lot. But around here, those babies are way too big to fit in the family vehicle (thank God). My middle child and only son Brennan, likes the relatively small and perfectly round ones. He’s a practical kid and basically goes for the pumpkin he‘s capable of carrying back to the car on his own. Unfortunately, his end up being too small. My youngest, Blair, well she’s like her momma. She likes the ones with personality and gravitates towards anything with a funky shape, odd markings or a gnarly stem. But in the words of her sister and brother, Blair’s picks are generally too “ugly.” Ultimately, though, the pumpkin that ends up on the front stoop on Halloween night is the one that gets carved “just right.” As for the other gourds, all is not lost. We gut them and toast the seeds for a tasty snack–yet another part of the annual tradition.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds are super simple to make and over the years I’ve experimented with various ways to get them from pumpkin to plate. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is by far the best when it comes to achieving the right level of saltiness. It’s basically a quick brining method that’s done in a pot of boiling, salted water. If you follow this step, you won’t need to add anymore salt before toasting them. If you’re short on time or prefer unsalted seeds, skip the brining step.
In addition to salt, other spices can be mixed in for flavor. Because of the kids, I tend to keep mine simple by adding just a smidgen of cayenne. Or sometimes I’ll divide the batch in half or in quarters and season them separately with different things. I’ve included a few suggestions in the recipe. The pumpkin seeds can be eaten whole (the way I like them) or shelled. But shelled pumpkin seeds, in my opinion, are hardly worth the effort especially since they never seem to crack open very easily.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
1 medium pumpkin
2 quarts water
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
Generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Other seasoning suggestions: Creole seasoning, ground cumin, chipotle chili powder, garlic powder, curry powder, cinnamon and sugar, garam masala, smoked paprika or grated Parmesan and oregano.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place seeds in a colander under cold running water and, using your hands, separate them from the stringy pulp. Discard pulp. Pour water into a medium saucepan over high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and shake dry. Transfer seeds to a medium bowl, toss with olive oil and cayenne pepper (or your choice of spices). Spread seeds in an even layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Toast in oven until golden brown, stirring halfway through, 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully stir seeds again to release any that may have stuck to the baking sheet. Let cool completely before eating. Toasted Pumpkin Seeds will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups.