Enjoying pumpkin long after October
Pumpkin puree is easy to make and great to have on hand for your favorite recipes during the months ahead.
Fall has arrived delivering beautiful colors and a bountiful supply of pumpkins. In addition to decorating porches, yards and homes with these beautiful gourds they can also be consumed or frozen to enjoy at a later date in your favorite recipes. I look forward to this season each year and being able to enhance my stock of pumpkin puree using this quick easy process.
Selection: When selecting a pumpkin for cooking the best selection is a “pie pumpkin.” These are smaller than the traditional jack-o’-lantern pumpkins and the flesh will be sweeter and less watery. Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins may be substituted with fairly good results. Note: never consume pumpkins that have been carved or sat out for decoration. Look for a pumpkin that has at least one to two inches of stem. If the stem is shorter it may decay faster. Watch for soft spots, misshapen pumpkins won’t matter when you are cooking them. For planning purposes, about one pound of raw, untrimmed pumpkin will result in approximately one cup of finished pumpkin puree.
Preparation: There are several methods for preparing cooked pumpkin. One is to boil or steam it. To boil or steam:
- Cut a washed pumpkin into large pieces, eliminating stringy mass and seeds
- Place in a large pot with about one cup of water. Cover and boil for 20 to 30 minutes until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes.
- To determine when done, poke with a fork, drain in a colander, and then follow the finishing procedure.
My favorite method to cook pumpkins is using the oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wash pumpkin, cut in half, clean out stringy mass and seeds, rinse again under cool water
- Place the pumpkin halves, cut side down on a large baking sheet
- Bake for one hour or until fork tender, and then follow the finishing procedure
Microwave ovens may be used as well.
- Wash the pumpkin, cut in half, removing stringy mass and seeds
- Place on a microwave safe tray or dish
- Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness using a fork (read above). If further cooking is needed, microwave at one to two minute intervals, and then follow the finishing procedure below.
Finishing procedure: The pumpkin needs to be cooled quickly by either placing it in ice water or in the refrigerator. Once it is cool enough to handle, scrape the pulp from the peel, usually a spoon works best. You may now place it into freezer bags, or for a finer puree you can put it into a food mill, ricer, blender or food processer. If you have favorite recipes (muffins, bread, pie etc.), measure out your puree based on the recipe directions and freeze the portions using freezer bags. Label the freezer bag with the name of the recipe, the amount of puree, and the date you prepared it. The Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh pumpkin bulletin recommends freezing at 0 degree for up to one year. This puree may be used in recipes that call for solid pack canned pumpkin – not pie pumpkin, because it will have no spices added to it.
Remember to pick up a few of these delicious pie pumpkins while you are out selecting other fall decorations. Having a supply of pumpkin in the freezer allows you to create a vast array of delicious tasting recipes for your family. Consuming just the puree by itself is healthy too; it is loaded with vitamin A and fiber. So stock up on this delicious, healthy food and look for fun ways to incorporate it into your diet.