Growing up, I used to eat sunflower seeds. I wasn't as addicted to them as some kids were but every now and then I would go on a binge until mouth-blisters would force me to stop. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, I wasn't too fond of. The kind you bought at the corner market in the little bags, hanging right next to the sunflower seeds, weren't that great. They were white as could be and had no real flavor. Because of this, we never really had any urge to roast the seeds we cleaned out of our jack-o-lanterns every Halloween. It makes me sad now to think of how many yummy pumpkin seeds were thrown out every year when, within an hour, they could be transformed into a treat tastier than potato chips or popcorn!
The great thing about roasting pumpkin seeds is that you have a world of flavor combinations at your fingertips. If you like spicy, make them spicy. If you like garlic, pour it on. You could even make them sweet, if you wanted to! I have my way of making them and pretty much stick to that particular "recipe" every time I roast them. The important thing is roasting them correctly, beyond that flavor as you will. I give measurements for the seasonings I use below but these are only guesses! When I actually make the seeds, I never measure. Each time I make them, I have a different amount of seeds so there is no hard and fast rule here. The measurements I give below are based on a pan whose bottom is completely covered in seeds.
To begin, set your oven to 325°. Take the seeds from the pumpkin(s) and rinse them off a little in a colander. You don't need to get them super clean and some folks like leave a lot of pumpkin goo on the seeds for flavor. I will also pick out most of the large pieces of membrane, leaving just seeds. The seeds will be pretty slimy at this point. Pour the seeds into a 9x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or coated with vegetable oil. Now is when you season them. I am giving measurements below but, again, these are only guesses.
2 T kosher salt
2 t garlic powder
2 t cayenne powder
a sprinkle of ground dried thyme (optional)
Stir up the pumpkin seeds so the spices get evenly distributed. Place the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and stir. Bake for another 15 minutes. Stir. Continue to do this over the course of an hour or so. Once the seeds begin to dry, you'll want to start stirring at more frequent intervals. Also remember as you stir to break apart any clumps of seeds that might try to stick together. The important thing to remember is that you want the seeds to get a deep golden color. If you take the seeds out too soon, they won't be as crispy, and that's the real secret to making a great pumpkin seed - crisp! Once the seeds have gotten a nice golden honey color, allow them to cool for a bit and eat!
That's it, really! Like I said, the secret is roasting them for long enough. Under roasted seeds tend to get soft and acquire a stale taste and texture. Don't be afraid to let them roast, just keep a constant eye on them, stirring them every 5 minutes or so. The reward is a delightfully crispy snack and a guarantee that you will never throw out another pumpkin seed!