Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Puree Pumpkin

Remember how we grew our own pumpkins this year? Then remember how we picked them? Well they've been decorating our house since early October and when we unveiled Christmas it was time to use them up. I hate wasting stuff and I hate paying for canned pumpkin (all these pumpkins came from a $1 seed packet). Canned pumpkin is more than $1 for the 15 oz can and about $2 for the 29 oz can. So today I'm going to show you how to make your own puree.

Because I can.

First, it isn't recommended that you can puree and I think it's too much work to can chunks because it's hard to cut up and peel a pumpkin. So - the time efficient, and easiest way - freeze it. Start by rinsing your pumpkins (and feel good they are totally organic, come from you yard, and have no pesticides). Place as many as will fit on a cookie sheet and stab them with a knife. Then bake them at 275 until they are soft. If you forget them in your oven it's no big deal, the softer the better. I baked mine for about 2 hours but they were probably done after about 90 minutes.

When you pull them out of the oven the stem will just being falling off, they will be sagging, and the skin just peels away. I just used my hands to pull the pumpkin into two pieces. It is very easy to handle - like cooked squash. I prefer long baking to cutting and cooking in a pan with water hands down! I have done it the other way and it's hard to slice and gut the raw pumpkin, it ends up watery from the water needed to add to cook, and in my opinion it looses flavor. I don't like the steaming way either because I just want to deal with easy to handle pumpkin - so bake it, bake it, bake it!

Scrape out the seeds (and collect to bake if desired because they aren't stringy like raw seeds). Then add the meat to your food processor or blender. I prefer the blender but this is the batch I did in the food processor. Add enough water that it will puree into the consistency that you want. I added about 2 cups per blender-full.

In doing several batches I realized that it is easiest to put the plastic bag into a cup with the edges folded down and place it on the top of my scale. I then measured a cup (8 oz is a liquid cup and since pumpkin isn't liquid I first measured how many ounces it took to fill my actual measuring cup. You know a cup of flour would weigh less than a cup of pumpkin because a cup refers to spacial quality not weight...blah, blah, blah. With my water content it is about 9 oz of pumpkin per cup.) I poured 9 oz into each pre-labeled ziploc bag and laid them flat in my freezer.

After they were all frozen they stand up like a bookcase. I got 24 cups of pumpkin from 4 pumpkins. I was then kind of tired of the process and that is probably all we'll use before next year so I gave the other pumpkins away. Totally a money saver - not only for our family but enough abundance to share!

- if you add too much water you can drain the pumpkin to the desired consistency using a strainer and then freeze it
- I freeze them in 1 cup amounts because it seems that most recipes call for 1 cup not a 15 oz can or 29 oz
- to use just thaw on the counter or in microwave and put it in stuff, the flavor isn't quite the same as canned so I spice my recipes a little more generously when using home grown pumpkins (it's because store canned "pumpkin" isn't actually pumpkin it is usually squash)
- we use it to make cookies, bread, pumpkin alfredo, waffles, or as an addition to oatmeal or cream-of-wheat - the possibilities are endless
- I don't plant baking pumpkins and I don't notice a flavor difference enough to justify the price difference - all these pumpkins came from one seed packet from the end cap at Smiths

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