By Erica Perez of Oaktown Spice
This time of year has always held a special place in my heart. Growing up, Halloween was something to look forward to during the beginning of the school year. Carving pumpkins, raking leaves, and trick-or-treating generated lots of excitement. Now that I am a parent, I get to see how it still excites the newest generation. The aroma of roasting pumpkin seeds coming from the kitchen reminds me of all the wonder and anticipation I felt as a kid around this holiday. As an avid pumpkin seed fan, I have fine-tuned my roasting technique to get the crispy, salty, and toasty results that dentists probably hate but floss manufacturers love
To get started, you need to get yourself a couple of pumpkins with seeds. Select a pumpkin with lots of seeds by thumping the pumpkin with your finger and if it sounds hollow, you’ve got yourself a winner. I like to pick pumpkins that have interesting features like flat spots or odd dimples. This won’t likely impact your pumpkin seed harvest but it will really make for a wickedly cool carved pumpkin to wow your friends and enemies alike.
When you’re trying to decide what to season your pumpkin seeds with, stay away from things that might burn in the roasting process like dried herbs. The tried and true flavors like salt and freshly cracked pepper will never disappoint, but really pumpkin seeds are really very receptive to most flavors.
Cinnamon sugar and melted butter is a new one for me, but it really turned out tasty and with a pinch of salt you’ll get a sweet-salty effect like a salted caramel. My 7-year-old’s favorite was Madras Curry Powder with a pinch of salt. The Shichimi Togarashi with salt gave each bite an exciting burst of orange, or sesame, or chile. My favorite, though, was all of them mixed together like an all pumpkin seed Chex mix – sweet, salty, flavorful and all crispy.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Scoop seeds from inside of the pumpkin and remove pulp. Rinse seeds in a colander. Place seeds, a tablespoon of salt, and the quart of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes over until the seeds become slightly translucent. Strain the seeds and pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel. This step helps ensure that you will get a crispy result. You can dry them on low heat in the oven too.
In a bowl, mix pumpkin seeds and olive oil or melted butter and the seasoning of your choice and optional pinches of salt and/or sugar. On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, spread out pumpkin seeds and bake for 20-40 minutes, stirring them once. Bake until they look slightly toasted. Let them cool before eating so you don’t burn your tongue. They also crisp up as they cool.
Suggested Seasonings (the sky’s the limit!)
Salt and freshly ground Tellicherry Peppercorns
Saigon Cinnamon and sugar
Madras Curry Powder and salt
The pumpkin seeds naturally pick up some saltiness from simmering in salt water, but I like a little extra salty burst, so I mixed in flake salt with the seeds and the oil.
Be mindful that some seasonings are salt-free and others already contain salt, so use extra salt accordingly. If you are a fan of kettle corn, you will want to try some sugar too. Extra flake salt and sugar works with just about any seasoning combination and gives you a delicious salty-sweet combo.
Another option is to roast some seasoned pumpkin seeds with sugar and some with salt and then mix them together after roasting.
Butter or olive oil? Butter makes everything taste buttery. If that sounds good to you, then do it! If you do use butter, the seeds might need a little extra roasting time. If after cooling the seeds still aren’t crispy and crunchy, return them to the oven and roast them for another 5 minutes or so until they achieve a good light toasty color.