Last week the Breast Cancer Fund released a report about concerning levels of BPA in many prepared Thanksgiving foods. BPA, an estrogenic chemical linked to breast cancer, is most often found in plastics (one of many reasons I try to avoid plastic altogether). However, BPA is also found in other surprising places like grocery store receipts and canned goods. Due to the carcinogenic nature of this chemical, my hometown of Chicago was the first U.S. city to ban bisphenol A in baby products like bottles and sippy cups.
Included in the Breast Cancer Fund report was a Thanksgiving staple: canned pumpkin. For half of the products tested, a single 120-gram serving of the tested food contained enough BPA to show adverse health impacts in lab studies. Yikes! Fortunately, for several years I’ve forgone canned pumpkin in favor of the real thing. While I don’t find a huge difference in taste, using fresh generates basically no trash and requires minimal transport from a local farm to my table. While I started using fresh pumpkin for environmental reasons, it soon became apparent that fresh is better for my health, too. Using real pumpkin instead of canned is a simple way to opt out of the commercial food chain.
There are a few ways to ready a pie pumpkin for your favorite Thanksgiving recipe, but I find the easiest to be the stovetop method. It takes 30 minutes from start to finish, but only about 5 minutes of that is active time for me. If you like carving pumpkins for Halloween, preparing a fresh pumpkin for your November pie is no big deal.
1. Set a steamer basket or colander in a large pot with about 2 inches of water. Put over medium-high heat and bring water to a boil.
2. Cut the top off the pumpkin and discard. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Cut pumpkin halves into quarters.
3. Set pumpkin quarters into the steamer basket. Cover the pot and set the timer for 20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes – or once the pumpkin is soft – turn off heat and remove pumpkin pieces from pot. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
5. Scoop soft flesh away from pumpkin rind. Put flesh into a food processor and blend until smooth. Use just as you would canned pumpkin in any recipe. Or, sprinkle in some cinnamon and feed to a baby for a special treat
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