Cooking from Scratch: The secret to flavorful pumpkin seeds

My little brother and I would watch eagerly as my mom stabbed our biggest kitchen knife into the top of our pumpkin.

Moving the knife up and down like a horror movie serial killer, she would cut off the lid, and then we’d look at each other daringly. I always reached in first with an over-dramatic “ewww!” as I squeezed the cold, orange goo between my fingers.

After we’d scraped out the shell and fought over whether to make our jack-o’-lantern scary or silly, I always insisted we roast the seeds.

Between baking, cooking and carving, our family will go through a solid dozen pumpkins between the beginning of October and Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of pumpkin goo and something like 6,000 seeds. But now that I’ve grown up, the novelty of roasting plain seeds no longer outweighs their bland flavor. While you can sprinkle a little salt on top easily enough, it never really sticks well.

To get amazing salty flavor the seeds need to be brined.

Brining pumpkin seeds — i.e. giving them a soak in hot, salty water — allows the salt to penetrate the seed’s shell. Instead of just being salty on the outside, you get pumpkin seeds that are deliciously flavorful all the way through.

The amount of time the seeds need to soak is a matter of personal preference. Some people are satisfied by just 2 or 3 hours, but I prefer to let mine sit at least overnight. Then, with a quick strain and a few blots of a towel, the seeds are ready to dress up with any other seasoning that sounds good and pop in the oven for roasting.

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Brined Curried Pumpkin Seeds

In the recipe below, I’ve used curry powder, but you could also use hot sauce, powdered sage, garlic or even something sweet like maple syrup. (The savory/sweet combo is amazing, but keep a very close eye on them as they cook because the syrup will cause them to burn faster.)

Happy pumpkin eating!

Brined Curried Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from one small pie pumpkin

1 1/3 cups water

1/3 cup salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon curry powder

Rinse the pumpkin seeds well and set aside in a lidded container that will hold at least double the volume of the seeds. Mix the salt and water in a saucepan. Boil the water, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot brine over the seeds and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the seeds and blot them dry with a clean towel. On a rimmed bake sheet, toss the seeds with the olive oil and curry powder. Roast the seeds in a 325 F oven, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

They’re finished when they are slightly browned and smell toasty, which should take 20-30 minutes.

— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at mybitofearth.net.

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