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“Canning” pumpkin… the easy, freezy way!

When I say easy, I mean easy; domestic goddess, I am not these days.  Not even up to my usual, slovenly, standards.

But anyway – pumpkin.  I bought four biggish ones on November 1st for 99 cents each (up from 49 cents last year, and FREE the year before!), plus I found one BIG one this evening walking to my mother’s house (sitting at the curb, but it only had a couple of squirrel-bites out of it… and I figure the roasting takes care of any squirrelish germs; I hope I’m right!).

So here’s what you do:

  1. Open the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds.  I generally throw away the cap, but you could roast it, too.  SAVE THE SEEDS!
  2. Slice the pumpkin almost all the way down on one side, then the other, then pull it apart with your bare hands – this is my “Incredible Hulk” moment, where I feel huge and powerful and furious… for a second, until the, um, fruit in my hands snaps apart easily.
  3. Use a metal spoon and scrape the “gunk” off the inside walls of the pumpkin.  Discard.
  4. Place face-down on a metal baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for an hour, or more (varies according to the size of your pumpkin), until a skewer poked into the outside wall penetrates the pumpkin half easily.  Baking it longer is actually better… the pumpkin caramelizes deliciously, turning golden-dark at the edges and draining a sticky syrup.  Remove from oven; cool until it’s safe to handle it.
  5. DSC04406Scrape it out – I use a great big wooden spoon known as The Spanker (tm).  Try not to nick the outer wall of the pumpkin.  I love the empty shells as they’re hollowed out – they look like crumpled up leather jackets; that awful orange leather they used to have in the 70s:
  6. Here’s the most important step:  DRAIN the pumpkin.  Pack it into a strainer and let it drain, as long as possible.  It may have lost a lot of liquid in roasting, but unless you’ve incinerated it, there’s lots more where that came from.  Drain, drain, drain.  Otherwise, you’ll get mostly pumpkin juice, which may be good on the dining table at Hogwarts, but doesn’t make such great pies.  As it is, commercial canned pumpkin is VERY dry.  You may still not want to risk making pies with your homemade pumpkin without boiling it down a bit.
  7. Once your pumpkin has drained, purée it – toss it, a bit at a time, into a food processor and whir until there are no bits left.  Nobody wants to bite into a lump of pumpkin.  Collect in a bowl and purée the next batch.  Continue all evening until all pumpkins are done (I do 2 at a time – more than that becomes hellish, as far as I’m concerned, but someone else might prefer to have it all done in one day/evening).
  8. DSC04405Get a tallish, thinnish measuring cup, so your baggies will slip right over the top.  That way, you can measure each baggie’s worth as you go.  Tap the bottom of the measuring cup a few times to make sure the pumpkin compacts all the way to the bottom.  I use just about 2 cups per baggie, because that’s what recipes seem to call for.
  9. Seal up the bags… and away you go, downstairs to the great big freezer!!!  Assuming no major interruptions to your electricity and a good, hard-working deep freezer, the pumpkin is good for at least eight months, and probably a year.   In a fridge-freezer, I’d probably want to use them up within 4-6 months.  In either case, you should check periodically to make sure they’re staying nice and frozen.  Keep them together in the freezer, if possible, so you don’t lose one and find it off in a corner, years later.

OH – final tip:  THE BAGGIES LEAK!  Especially cheap ones; all we had for these pictures were the expensive kind Ted’s family gives us.  Always thaw frozen baggies of pumpkin in a bowl in case of leakage.  This sometimes works in my favour, as the watery stuff runs out, leaving slightly denser, dryer pumpkin purée.

DSC04407Here’s an old post with a few more pictures, in case you’re utterly captivated at the thought of more quivering pumpkin goo.

So what can you (or I) do with 2 cups of frozen pumpkin???

  • Pumpkin soup (use any squash soup recipe, just slip in pumpkin – which is a KIND of squash, after all)
  • Pumpkin challah
  • Pumpkin kugel
  • Pumpkin spice cake
  • Pumpkin ravioli – mix with ricotta and fill homemade pasta, or pipe creamy mixture into store-bought canneloni
  • Pumpkin pie (here’s a pareve one!), or… kick it up a notch with cream cheese and you’ve got…
  • Pumpkin cheesecake (secretly, I don’t love pumpkin pie)
  • Pumpkin noodles
  • Pumpkin gnocchi
  • Pumpkin pancakes (popular in the Caribbean, says one friend)
  • Pumpkin latkes (kinda like pancakes – shhh…)
  • Pumpkin muffins (made these ones last week)
  • Pumpkin butter (don’t worry; it’s pareve)
  • Pumpkin / ginger hamentashen
  • Pumpkin risotto (or these pastries filled with it)
  • Mmm… here’s a new one from Couldn’t be Parve:  Pumpkin Doughnuts!

How do you use canned / frozen pumpkin???