Every year my parents grow pumpkins in their garden for our children. It's become a bit of a tradition now, and the kids are excited to go out into the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin that suits them best. The patch will have to keep expanding- they're up to 5 grandchildren and neither my sister-in-law or I are ready to be done welcoming babies into our lives! I'm excited for this season too, because pumpkin is my favorite fall food item to harvest. Not only is it a beautiful looking food, it has a wonderful flavor and is good for you too. It's extremely versatile and can be used in baking pumpkin pies, pumpkin bars, pumpkin breads and is a great addition to creamy pasta sauces as a way to add in some extra nutrients.
Like most things that are preserved, preparing pumpkins takes some time. To me, it's well worth the effort, as most preservation efforts are in my eyes, and I enjoy the time it takes and the gift it makes. There's nothing better, to me, than a completely homegrown meal, and adding pumpkin as a resource for food in the winter is a great way to make that happen more often than not.
If you want, you can process pumpkin in a canner, however this recipe preserves by freezing. I've found it to work well in the past, and it's an easy way to preserve if you have the freezer space available (which we don't....but I'm still going with it :)
To start, you'll want to wash any dirt that might be on the outside of the pumpkin. Next, cut out the stem and cut your pumpkin into large chunks.
The next step is a fun one, and I invited the kiddos to help. If you have any little ones, I'm sure they'll enjoy it just as much as Miss B did! C wasn't as much of a fan, but he tried it nevertheless.
Separate the seeds from the "guts". I place the seeds in a strainer to bake and eat later as a treat. More on that later. The guts go in a bucket for the chickens
, who will be excited for the treat!
Once the seeds and guts have been removed, take a spoon to scrape out any remaining guts left on the pumpkin. You'll want it nice and clean before you put it in the roaster.
Once the pumpkins are clean, you can place them flesh side down in the oven or a roaster to cook. I chose the latter, and place my pumpkin chunks in a large roaster set at 325 degrees. You may need to cut your pumpkin into smaller chunks to make it fit! You'll also want to add 1-2 inches of water to the pan to help the pumpkin from drying out. I roasted mine about 2 hours, but the time can vary from pumpkin to pumpkin. You will want to cook it long enough so that it can easily be scooped with a spoon.
Once the flesh is soft enough, remove the pumpkins from the heat source to cool. Once cooled, spoon the flesh from the pumpkin by scraping it out with a spoon. It should come out easily! Puree the pumpkin in a blender or food processor, then place the puree in a floursack towel or cheesecloth lined strainer in the sink to remove excess water.
Give the pumpkin some time to drain out or give it a good squeeze while it's in the towel. You don't need all of the water removed, but you just want the excess to be gone. When you're done, you should be left with a thicker pumpkin puree.
The last step is to package it up and freeze it! I like to do 2 cups per bag as that's comparable to a can you'd buy in the store and easily works with recipes.
Now, let's check back to those seeds! Give them a good rinse with water, pat dry, and cover them with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasoning salt (or seasonings of your choice) and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. They are such a healthy and delicious added bonus of pumpkin processing! Don't forget to keep a few seeds to plant for next year.
And there you have it! You've now successfully preserved pumpkin and can enjoy it for the entire year to come.
What's your favorite thing to make with pumpkin?
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