I'm often asked questions relating to preparing fresh garden produce and the number one question I get this time of year is how to prepare pumpkins. And this year is no exception! (Keep those questions coming...) Though I admit over the years making pumpkin puree has been an economical effort to conserve our resources it has morphed into a food necessity. Honestly, it tastes amazing and knowing it came from your garden brings it all to another level.
One of the pumpkins this year came courtesy from one of Fiona's friends birthday parties. The pumpkin lovingly came home with gems, jewels, and a sticker face. It was darling, however, several weeks later (and with Fiona's permission) I started the process to turn a birthday party favor/decoration into food for Thanksgiving dinner.
After cleaning the pumpkin off, I popped the stem off with my hands and placed it into the microwave for two minutes. Wait...yes. I did say the microwave. This quick step makes the outer skin easier to slice into. After the pumpkin's ride on the turntable in the microwave, I removed it and sliced it in half.
After slicing it in half, I scooped out the pulp and seeds into a bowl. The pumpkin seeds can be removed, cleaned and roasted which we've often done in the past. However, this time I simply gave the seeds and pulp to my lovely urban ladies who gobbled this delicious treat up. (Note: The little Ziploc bag of gems and jack o' lantern face in the corner)
After removing the gunk out of the pumpkin you have two beautiful pumpkin halves ready to make their way to the awaiting pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.
Place the two pumpkin halves on a cookie sheet face down and place just about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. The pumpkins will cook for about one hour give or take depending on the size of your pumpkin. The outer layer will start to brown/blacken which is a sign that it is done and you can pull the pumpkin out of the oven.
Let the pumpkins cool as it may difficult and dangerous to pull the skin off too early due to the heat and/or steam. After cooling, you can easily pull the skin off with your fingers. The chickens never seem to interested in cooked pumpkin skins so I remove this from the "meat' of the pumpkin and dispose it in my compost bin.
Next take the pumpkin and place in a large bowl and mash with a large spoon. The consistency will be similar to smooth mashed potatoes. Some people prefer to place the pumpkin and mix it in a blender until smooth. However, I prefer to skip having to wash all the intricate parts of my blender for this simple task. (Seriously...why bother?) After the pumpkin is mashed I let it cool a bit more (usually around 30 minutes). I then start spooning the pumpkin goodness into quart size freezer Ziploc bags. I use a small kitchen scale and put 16 oz into each bag which is also 2 cups. Again, you are welcome to use a measure cup, but I prefer using my kitchen scale. Most recipes using pumpkins call for one can (16 oz) or 2 cups, so this is a great standard for storing your pumpkin. After putting 16 oz. into the Ziploc, I squeeze the air out a bit and seal it up.
Tip #1: Be sure to use freezer bags as other regular brands of storage can cause freezer burn or leave the pumpkin tasting like everything else in your freezer. Yuck!
Tip #2: Label each bag with a Sharpie. It is important that you use the older items in your refrigerator so you don't waste food.
And there you have it! I use my pumpkin for pies, muffins, and bread throughout the year. Remember last year when there was a shortage of pumpkin? I didn't worry because I had a surplus in my freezer straight from my yard into my freezer. Oh the goodness...
From inside the Little Blue Bungalow,