Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Basics

Storing pumpkins. (from Carb Wars, by Judy Barnes Baker) Wash them well with a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach to a quart of water.  Rinse well, dry thoroughly, and wrap them individually in newspaper.  Keep them for a week or so in a warm room to harden the skins, then move them to an unheated garage, basement, or other cool place, but don’t let them freeze.  They will keep for several months.  They can also be packed in sand or sawdust to extend the storage time.  Don’t set them directly on a concrete floor unless you put a wooden or cardboard base under them.  Any hard squash can be stored this way, including spaghetti squash.

Freezing pumpkin. There are two ways to do this. You can either freeze chunks of raw pumpkin or you can cook the pumpkin and puree it and then freeze the puree. The puree can be used like canned pumpkin. The frozen chunks can be used in recipes that call for raw pumpkin. I’ve done it both ways, and I think that freezing the puree is a lot easier. Freezing it in chunks means peeling it and cutting it into small pieces while it’s raw, and that’s a lot of hard work. If you freeze the puree, you cook it before you take it out of the shell, so you don’t have to cut it into little pieces and also means you can just scoop out the flesh rather than having to peel it. (If you do end up peeling the pumpkin, I’m told that one of those Y shaped peelers works a lot better the old fashioned straight kind.)
A.    To freeze raw pumpkin chunks, peel the pumpkin, thoroughly scoop out the seeds, and cut the flesh into 2 to 3cm (about 1 inch) chunks. Loosely fill it in freezer bags. Do not pack it too tightly, or the frozen chunks will stick together and make it difficult to remove only a portion. (from
B.     To freeze pumpkin puree, start by cooking and pureeing the pumpkin. (see below) Measure out either one or two cup portions, then put them in freezer bags. A small can of pumpkin is about 2 cups; a big can is about 4 cups. Measuring it before you freeze it means that you can pull out and thaw only as much as you need.

Making pumpkin puree. Cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, and pull out all the seeds and stringy slimy gunk inside. (Don’t forget to save the seeds to roast!) Depending on the size of the pumpkin, you can either put the halves cut side down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water, or you can cover the cut side with foil and put them foil side up on a cookie sheet. If you have a monster pumpkin, you can cut it into smaller pieces and cover the cut sides with foil, then bake it foil side up. Bake at 350 for anywhere from about an hour for a small pumpkin to two hours for a big one. It’s done when you can stick a knife into it easily. Let it cool, then scoop out the flesh and puree it in a food processor, a food mill or a colander. Now it’s ready to use immediately as you would canned pumpkin, or frozen. (see above) I haven’t tried it, but I’m told you can cook a small pumpkin in a slow cooker, too. Poke a few holes in it to let out the steam, then cook it on low for 6 – 8 hours, then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, then remove the flesh from the skin, and puree it as usual. ( Or, if your pumpkin is too big, try cutting it up and removing the seeds before cooking it in the slow cooker. ( However you do it, save the seeds for roasting.

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