Whether you like pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, or pumpkin cookies, it’s the time of year for pumpkin.  We love pumpkin, and I always try to prepare and save as much as possible so that we can enjoy it year-round.  The problem with pumpkin is that you are limited to how you can preserve it.  It is not recommended as safe to can pumpkin puree, so if you want to use a canner method, you must cube the pumpkin, fill the jar with water, and then process it in a pressure-canner.  I tried that my first year and absolutely did NOT like the results.  The pumpkin flavor essentially cooked out into the water, and when I later used the cubes, they were as good as bland mash.  The other option is to freeze the pumpkin puree.  This is my favorite method.   The end result is fully-cooked, ready-to-use, and full of flavor–far better than anything you would get out of a grocery store can!   I don’t do anything unusual, but a lot of people ask about how I process our pumpkin.  Here’s how:

First, I give the pumpkin a quick scrub and rinse, open it up, remove the seeds and goo from the middle, then chop it into manageable pieces.

Then it goes into the steamer, just until a fork can be easily poked deep into the meat–usually around 20-30 minutes for larger-sized pieces like I use.

Once cooked through, I use a fork to gently scoop a chunk out, then hold the pumpkin chunk in a hot mit or something similiar (because it’s hot!!), and use the fork to scrape the meat out of the skin.  This is so much easier and faster than trying to peel the pumpkin early on!  Just be aware that the longer you cook it, the softer the skin becomes, and the easier it will rip.  As an fyi, I dump the cooked pumpkin into a seperate bowl, and let a new batch steam while I scoop the cooked batch.  Speeds things up a bit!

Now, I’m left with a bowl of pumpkin meat, and a pile of pumpkin skin for the goats and chickens!

Next, I puree in the pumpkin meat in the food processor.  Boy, does that make a yummy smell!! 

As a side note, I am aware that some people prefer to strain the pumpkin a bit before, or even after, puree’ing, just to remove the excess water.  This will, no doubt, make a thicker puree.  The most thorough method I have come across is to pour the puree’ into a fine mesh strainer, and use a spatula to gently turn the puree’ until it becomes a thickened, stuck-together, clump of pumpkin.  This supposedly makes the flavor more intense.  It is the method I would use if I had time.  I just don’t have the time right now.  So, I settle for the wetter, milder pumpkin puree’ for now.  If I happen to notice excess water in the container once the puree’ thaws, then I simply reduce other liquids in the recipe by the same amount.  I just thought you should know about the option.

Once puree’d, the pumpkin is put into appropriately sized containers, capped, and labeled.

Now, here is a tip that I think I do a bit different than most….  You see, the problem with freezing anything is that you have to thaw the whole batch, even you only want a small amount.  I have tried to minimize that problem by putting the puree’ into pre-measured containers.  For example, most recipes call for 1/2 cup, 1 cup, or 2 cups of pumpkin puree.  So, I use those containers.  My favorite type of container is pyrex, as it does very well in the freezer.  However, I don’t always have enough, so I do use canning jars when necessary.  Just be sure to leave a gap of air, and don’t fully tighten the lid until the puree’ freezes!  Now, when I want to make something with pumpkin, I just pull out the container that contains the needed amount, thaw, and dump it into the recipe.  VOILA!  A little extra work at the processing stage makes things sooooo much easier later on!  Of course, you need a little extra freezer space to do it this way, and this year, I am lacking space severely so I have to get very creative.  Nonetheless, we are really looking forward to pumpkin-y deserts in the coming months!!