Its fall and pumpkins are available locally. Most of the pumpkins on the market are going to be turned into Jack O’ Lanterns but there are some good recipes that utilize pumpkins and they are not all pie recipes. Pumpkin is used in a variety of dishes from soups to desserts. It’s tasty and good for you too. Why not turn some of the pumpkins you grew or bought at the market into some delightful dishes?
While pie type pumpkins are best for cooking, any pumpkin can be cooked. This article will give you the scoop on cooking, caning and freezing fresh pumpkins. Winter squashes can also be cooked, canned and frozen exactly like pumpkin.
Here’s how to prepare a pumpkin for fresh use in a recipe
- Select ripe, firm pumpkins. Do not use pumpkins that have been frosted or frozen.
- Wash the pumpkin well under clean, running water.
- Cut the pumpkin in half.
- Scoop out the stringy goop and seeds in the center of the pumpkin. Save the seeds for roasting if you want.
- Scrape the inner side of the pumpkin with the blade of a spoon until all the stringy matter is gone. You can also use an ice cream scoop.
- Cut the pumpkin into 1 inch chunks unless you are roasting or grilling it. In those cases cut it into 3-4 inch chunks.
- Stand each chunk on end and slice off the rind or skin with a sharp knife. There is a color change between the hard rind and the fleshy part. Discard the rind.
Proceed with your recipe directions or see cooking tips below.
Cooking fresh pumpkin
There are two main ways to cook a fresh pumpkin. You can place chunks of prepared pumpkin flesh in a pan with enough water to cover them and cook on low heat until it is softened. Drain off the cooking water. For most recipes you will then mash the pumpkin with a potato masher, blender or even a spoon. In some soup recipes the pumpkin chunks will be cooked in other fluids.
You can also bake or grill larger pumpkin pieces. Lightly spray the grill or a cookie sheet with olive oil or a butter spray. Place the pumpkin pieces on it. Bake at 325º or grill on medium heat until the pumpkin is softened. Occasionally halved or quartered cleaned pumpkins are baked. Consult your recipe but generally baked and grilled pumpkin is also mashed or pureed.
The easiest way to have cooked pumpkin on hand for recipes is to can it. This allows you the convenience of having cooked pumpkin for recipes throughout the year also. You will need a pressure canner to can pumpkin. When you can pumpkin at home you are making good use of a local and seasonal food source.
It is not safe to can mashed pumpkin as the center of the pumpkin in the jar is too dense to allow proper heating to prevent bacterial growth. Leave the mashing to when you open the can to use it. It will be soft and easy to mash. Also add spices just before using the pumpkin for best flavor.
You will need 18-20 pounds of whole pumpkin to can 7 quarts of pumpkin.
- Clean and prepare pumpkin as outlined in the beginning of the article.
- Clean 7 quart jars, rims and lids in hot water and keep warm.
- Place the pumpkin chunks in a large pot and add water to cover them.
- Bring the pot to a boil and then boil for 3 minutes. The pieces should still feel firm. Save the cooking water and keep it hot.
- With tongs remove chunks of pumpkin and pack your jars with them to 1 inch from the top. Do not mash the pumpkin.
- Ladle the hot, saved cooking water over the pumpkin pieces, leave one inch of space at the top.
- Run a bubble stick through the jars to remove bubbles, wipe the rim and add the lid and screw band.
- Place the jars in a pressure canner and process for 90 minutes. Set pressure on a dial gauge at 11 pounds at up to 2,000 feet altitude, 2000-4000 feet at 12 pounds, 4000-6000 at 13 pounds and above 6000 feet altitude at 14 pounds. For weighted gauges set them at 10 pounds up to 2000 feet altitude and 15 pounds above 2,000 feet altitude.
- Remove jars and allow them to cool. Check seals and label before storage.
You can freeze chunks of pumpkin that have been blanched and finish cooking them later or you can cook, mash and season pumpkin before freezing. To blanch pumpkin cut it into chunks, and place the chunks in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain the pumpkin pieces and freeze in freezer bags or containers.
To freeze mashed pumpkin cook the pumpkin as described earlier in the article. Mash the pumpkin and put it in freezer bags or containers to freeze. You can season the pumpkin before freezing but not seasoning it before freezing allows you more flexibility later when you use it.
Now that you have some canned or frozen pumpkin to work with you can experiment with all of the great pumpkin recipes and surprise someone you love.
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