Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Save the Pumpkins!!

This year, my garden surprised us with several pumpkins ...

Since I was fairly certain that they weren't going to last until Halloween to be carved, etc. I decided to freeze them as puree to use in pumpkin recipes.

It's a pretty simple process. Wash the pumpkins. (Cumbersome, but worth not having to do it later when your knife has dragged dirt through the middle of your squash.) Cut them in half, and scoop out all the guts. It's handy if you have a big bowl nearby. We like to cook the pumpkin seeds, but if you don't, it's fairly simple to just toss them ...

Grab a glass baking dish (or two) and lay your pumpkin pieces in it skin-side up. It's okay if they're not lying completely flat. You may have to prop one side against the other. No worries ...

Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom of your baking dish. I usually add three or four ...

Cover with foil-- doesn't matter if it's tented a bit around the pumpkins, just make sure that you've tightened it fairly securely around the pan. (Trust me, the process is much quicker if the water stays in the pan so that the pumpkin flesh steams.)

Pop your covered pans in the oven; I bake mine at 350 degrees, but I don't think it matters too much. I just like 350. It's a nice, easy number to remember. Bake them until you can pierce the pumpkin skin easily with a fork. (Should be somewhere near an hour, depending on the size of your pumpkins.) I tend to ignore them until they smell done. (Notice the word "done", not "burnt" ... I promise you won't like the difference ... )

I usually pull the skin off with a knife or a fork while the squash is still hot. It comes off fairly easy; just watch your fingers. It would be just as easy to scoop the flesh out with a spoon though. You're just going to mash it up anyway-- it's allright if it's in pieces.

If you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, now is a great time to pull it out. A regular blender works wonders as well. Just toss the pumpkin, in chunks, into the blender, and puree it in batches. It's a bit time-consuming, but it works.

I don't have a handy, dandy, immersion blender, and quite frankly, I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of pulling out my blender and pureeing several batches of pumpkin, when I can toss most of my pumpkin in a large bowl and use my potato masher. It's kind of like kneading bread-- there's something totally therapeutic about mashing a bunch of pumpkin by hand. :)

At this point, there are a couple of things that you can do. If you are really ambitious, you can strain your puree with cheese cloth or a dish towel to get the excess moisture out. You can tip any visible liquid out of the bowl using a plate or a spoon to keep your mashed pumpkin from splatting firmly into the bottom of your sink. (Such a waste -- pity ... )

While I do pour off any excess liquid, I don't usually put my towels or myself through the torture of squeezing out any excess drop. I do however drain my pumpkin again after it thawes. (Once again, not as thoroughly as some, but it hasn't been a problem thus far.)

It's hard to tell from that picture (Sorry, all I've got is a little point and shoot camera ... You get what you get.) but I measure my pumpkin out in two cup portions. A can of puree is about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups. When the pumpkin is frozen, and consequently thawed, there will be extra moisture to drain off. Measuring out two cups allows me to have enough pumpkin after I've drained the thawed puree.

Place your pumpkin in freezer containers. I prefer bags since they can lay flat, and they thaw more quickly. Label them with a sharpie. (Ball point pen gets bored and sneaks off ... ) Freeze them flat and stack them. You can stack a bunch unfrozen, but depending on the weight of your stack, the bottom containers may ooze ... Nobody likes a leaky pumpkin.

After thawing, use them in your favorite recipes. If your puree is really moist, you can wring it in a towel, or compensate by adjusting the liquid in the recipe. The type of pumpkin that you use may impact the flavor of your dish. If it's not a sweet variety, you can adjust the sweetener in your recipe. I've never needed to do this; usually, if you have a really flavorful pie recipe, you won't have a problem.

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Kelley @ TheGrantLife.com said...

yum! i love pumpkin. itll be nice to have later in the year when your craving it :)

Jaymie said...

Thanks, Kelley! I think so too. I'm pretty much a fan of anything pumpkin, so I'm thrilled to have a bunch on hand.

My Great Finds by Linda said...

Hi Jaymie,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. BTW I love pumpkin especially pumpkin pie. I'm your newest follower. I also like the menus you post, great idea

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

Great tutorial! I tried this once several years ago, but it was a small pumpkin. I never thought about freezing any. That would be helpful. I love anything pumpkin too. :)

Erin said...

Hi! Stop by my blog for your Liebster Award! Have a good weekend!

Cori said...

Thank you for this tip! I will have to pin this. I am your newest follower from www.createdbycori.blogspot.com

I can't wait to check out the rest of your blog!