As my daughters and I were walking into the local arts center, I noticed a town worker hoisting a beautiful Cinderella pumpkin onto his shoulder. They were switching the fall decorations out for the Christmas. As he walked our way towards his work truck. I must’ve had a wild gleam in my eyes, because my daughter Anna looked at me and said, “No mom, don’t do it.” She knew I was about to ask if I could have that pumpkin which was destined for the trash anyway, which I did. Why throw away perfectly good food?
I decorate my porch with a variety of heirloom pumpkins every fall, and slowly bring them in for processing. Last year I waited too long and my pumpkins started rotting. I have a new approach, I’m starting out with some pumpkins in September, then replacing them with fresher pumpkins and processing the September pumpkins. I’m still learning which pumpkins are the most meaty and rich, and going through the varieties.
I’ve chosen not to can pumpkin this year because I have a freeze dryer. Before I acquired a freeze dryer I dehydrated pumpkin puree which also works well. Pumpkin powder is a nifty pantry staple and saves space. If you want to can pumpkin, follow the same instructions as canning butternut squash.
So there are several ways to preserve pumpkin – – freeze, dehydrate, freeze dry or can. If you do can pumpkin, I suggest you make some pumpkin powder to thicken up the canned pumpkin when it drains. The result of canned pumpkin is more watery than sweet potatoes or butternut squash, so it’s good to have some pumpkin powder to thicken drained pumpkin chunks.
To process pumpkin, wash the outside of the pumpkin thoroughly. With a sharp butcher knife, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. If you are roasting the pumpkin just lay the pumpkin halves in a roasting pan, add a little water and roast at 375 for about 40 minutes or until it’s fork tender.
I also steam pumpkin, but that requires me to cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces. Time depends on the size of pumpkin pieces. If the fork goes into the pumpkin with no resistance, it’s ready.
Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Stain the pumpkin in a fine mesh strainer, stirring to get the water out.
From here, dehydrate, freeze dry, freeze or can pumpkin. I canned pumpkin puree a couple of years ago, but prefer to freeze dry. Most people don’t have freeze dryers and if you are indeed most people dehydrate, can or freeze your pumpkin puree. This year I also froze unblanched diced pumpkin for recipe experimentation.
Here is my freeze dried pumpkin, which will look about the same as dehydrated, just a different texture. The variegation in colors reflects the different types of pumpkins in the jar.
You might wonder, why do I need so much pumpkin? Never forget the Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2015. Buy fresh pumpkins when you find a sale, preserve and you will always have pumpkin pureee at the lowest price, which is really the type of approach I take for all my produce and other groceries. Also, by processing your own pumpkins you will get actual pumpkin, unlike what’s in store bought cans. You can read more about that here.
If you have a pumpkin recipe to share, please post in the comments or come over to Preserved Home’s Facebook Community page for discussion of all things preserving, cooking, and preparing your pantry. Also, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!