Last week I picked up my final CSA share. The box included an adorable little sugar pumpkin. Normally, I would have kept it in the dining room for a week or two, in order to enjoy the autumnal look it would lend my grandmother’s table. However, this one came with a soft spot, so it had to be used right away, lest it rot away entirely (Jonathan at Wasted Food would be so proud). So Sunday morning, I cut out the bad spot, split it in half and put it cut sides down on a cookie sheet, to gently roast until soft at 350 degrees. When it was fork-tender, I turned the oven off and left it to cool in the oven until I was ready to deal with it.
Not having a plan for it, when it was soft and cool enough to handle, I simply scraped the flesh away from the skin and packed it into the jar you see above. It’s still in the fridge, and I’m hoping to puree it until smooth tomorrow night (it’s too late tonight to embark on a fresh kitchen project) and use some of it to make a batch of these whole wheat pumpkin muffins (if you follow that link, my apologies for the awful photo. I can’t believe I ever thought it was a good idea to post that horror). The rest is going to go into some variance on this seriously delicious potato/pumpkin/gruyere casserole (I promise you that if you try it, you will forever make a place for it on your Thanksgiving table).
However, all that doesn’t tell you a whole lot of about preserving pumpkin past this season (although, those muffins can be frozen to delicious results). What I can tell you is that you have a few options when it comes to this gorgeous, vitamin-rich vegetable. Most easily, as long as you have good storage space, you can simply keep these pumpkins whole. Ask your farmers and market vendors which they recommend most for long-term storage.
If you want to have roasted pumpkin/squash at your finger tips, freezing is your only safe option. The density of mashed/pureed pumpkin is such that even pressure canning cannot guarantee your safety. However, it’s very easy to freeze it. Roast your pumpkins just like I did above and then measure it out into zip top bags, plastic storage containers or jars (if you freeze in glass, make sure to leave plenty of room for expansion). If you have a favorite recipe that calls for pumpkin/squash puree, consider freezing in that exact proportion, to make for easy cooking/baking.
However, you are able to pressure can pumpkin chunks packed in water. Here’s what you do (these instructions were taken directly from So Easy to Preserve, the canning bible out of the University of Georgia cooperative extension). Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add to a pot of boiling water and cook for two minutes. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars and add cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch of head space. Remove the air bubbles, wipe rims and apply lids. Process in a pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure, 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
When you’re ready to use this pumpkin in a recipe, you’ll find that a quick drain and a few smashes with a fork (or a run through a food processor if you’re a stickler for a lump-free texture) will provide you just what you need.
Lastly, if none of those options particularly float your boat, consider scoping out the Pumpkin Marmalade that the lovely Tigress in a Jam made recently. It’s currently stuck in my head and I’m thinking I may not be able to shake it loose until I make my own batch.
My mom told me to let the cooked pumpkin rest overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl in the fridge before using the puree or packing it for freezing. Also, she finds the microwave a quick-and-easy alternative to the oven for cooking the pumpkin – but do it on a glass plate instead of on a cookie sheet!
Fran, thanks for suggesting draining the pumpkin overnight, that’s a really terrific tip (and it’s giving me ideas for the squash dishes I typically make for Thanksgiving and Christmas). As far as microwaves go, I’ve been told they work really well for squash. However, I have this weird prejudice against cooking in the them. I’m okay with using a microwave to reheat, but for some reason, I don’t like to use them to cook. Crazy, particularly since I know that for certain things (like squash), they work really well. -Marisa
So is it not safe to process pumpkin butter as well?
Rebecca, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, it is not recommended that people home can pumpkin butter, which is why I did not include mention of it in my post. I’m certain that there are lots of people out there who have been canning pumpkin butter at home for generations, but because of the density of it, it is risky. -Marisa
So with the farmers’ markets and CSAs closing up shop for winter, what are we going to can for the next few months? I’m thinking when the lovely citrus fruits come to the markets, I’ll make marmalade?
On a related note, I’m bringing my homemade pickles for the Thanksgiving relish tray. How does dilly beans, pickled cauliflower, dilled green tomatoes and marinated red peppers sound? Plus curried apple chutney for turkey leftovers!
Emily, we’re definitely heading into citrus season, which means plenty of marmalades and fruit curds. There are still lots of local apples to be had, which means applesauce, apple butter and apple jelly (I really want to test out my jelly bag). Oh, and all the winter veggies that can be pickled (you remind me that I’ve been wanting to make a pickled cauliflower). That relish tray sounds amazing! -Marisa
There are some really interesting relish recipes in the November issue of BON APPETIT; beet chutney, chipotle cranberry sauce, and onion marmalade.
marisa – i just finished off one of the two jars of pumpkin marmalade i made this year, and i think it is my favorite from the 2009 season. it is perfection on toast with butter. i have two blue pumpkins left from my garden and their days are numbered because i have to make some more. you will not be disappointed!
btw..i am so looking forward to your participation in the can jam! 🙂
Why could I not take the puree, spread it onto fruit trays, give it a quick spray of lemon juice, and dehydrate it? Then like other home dehydrated foods, put it into a canning jar with an O2 absorber for long term storage?