In Pursuit of the Perfect Pumpkin Seed

My daughter loves Halloween. I think she started the holiday about three weeks ago. I promised her I’d devote a blog post to our pursuit of the perfect roasted pumpkin seed. (I told her, of course, that perfection is unachievable…you can always improve. That elicited the ultimate 11-year old eye roll, accompanied by the standard “Seriously, Dad?”)

We’ve always roasted the pumpkin seeds we extract from our carvings, but this year we wanted to get serious, because our past endeavors have always produced a high toss-out/spit-out result. They were too undone, too fibrous, too burnt, too flavorless.

So we got scientific. First we figured out what we really wanted: crunchy outside, juicier inside, slightly golden, tasty seasoning. We looked around the internet, gathering some “best practices.” Problem was, most of the sites seemed to simply list what we’d already tried. Except one, which mentioned the option of boiling.

We experimented. Hypothesis: boiling would soften the outside and reduce spit-out due to overpowering fiber factor.

Here’s where we are after a few iterations. One more iteration coming this evening!

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STEP 1: Carve pumpkin!

See image above.

STEP 2: Clean seeds.

We do our best to separate the seeds from the pumpkin guts. We put them in a sieve and rinse them to clean them, pulling out as much orange goo as we possibly can.

STEP 3: Boil seeds.

This, we think, is chef secret number one. We put the cleaned seeds in a pot, add water to cover seeds plus about an inch. ADD SALT. We’ve tried a half teaspoon, teaspoon, and 1.5 teaspoons. It depends how much water you have (and how many seeds). You basically want the water to be salty to taste. We think this helps soften the seed coating.

IMG_2588Bring the pot to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and simmer for at least 10 minutes. We’ve tried 10 and 12 minutes. It depends on your seed volume and thickness. Basically, look for the darker seed to show through the seed cover.

STEP 4: Prep seeds for roasting.

Drain and dry your seeds. This is important, because water will prevent seasoning from sticking. Spread the seeds on a towel or paper towel and pat dry. The seeds are sticky now…in fact you’ll have to pull them off the towel.

Spray a large cookie sheet with olive oil spray. Spread your seeds out in a single layer. Lightly spry them with olive oil spray. Now generously sprinkle whatever seasoning suits your taste. My daughter loves Krazy Mixed Up Salt, so that’s what we use. Want them spicy? Use a little cajun seasoning.

IMG_2590STEP 5: Roast seeds in oven.

Preheat your oven to 325-350. Our oven is slightly cool, so 325, which is what everyone recommends, didn’t cut it. 350 was spot on.

Put the cookie sheet with seeds on a middle rack. Roast for 10 minutes. That’s round 1 of 2-3 rounds.

Pull your seeds out. We used to just leave them in the oven until they looked golden, but the underside didn’t get roasted. Our fix: shuffling.

Mix your seeds up on the sheet, using a spoon or other utensil. They’re hot, so’s the pan, so be careful.

Respread, respray, reseason, return to oven for another 10 minutes. Toward the end of this 10 minutes, do a visual scan to see if the seeds are getting slightly golden. If not, you’ll need another roasting round (reshuffle, respread, preseason). If they are, do a taste test.

The seeds should be crunchy, not chewy. If there’s a chewy factor, you’ll need another round.

We’ve found that three rounds does the trick: 2 rounds of 10 minutes, a third round of variable time, depending on the number of seeds on the sheet.

IMG_2599STEP 6: Eat!

Put your seeds in a bowl, let them cool a bit, and start munching. They should not require any additional seasoning.

In our most recent iteration, we needed three full rounds of 10 minutes each. But the result was amazingly good. In our final round this evening, we are going to boil for slightly longer to see if we can eradicate the slight fibrosity of the seeds.

That’s it! Try it, and let us know how they turned out!