Using pumpkins from the garden

Using And Storing Pumpkins From The Garden

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Did you grow pumpkins in your garden this year? What do you do with those pumpkins (besides carving for Halloween)? Pumpkins have done pretty well in my garden every year. So I’ve had to find ways of using pumpkins.

I do love a beautiful pumpkin display for fall, but I can’t really do that. I just can’t decorate with them, because my dogs and chickens just end up eating them!

Pile of pumpkins on a pallet

Making pumpkin puree

Making your own pumpkin puree is so easy, and it tastes much better than store-bought! Smaller pie pumpkins (you know, the ones you don’t want to carve for Halloween) are best for making pumpkin puree.

Rinse off your pumpkins, then cut them in half, or quarters if they’re bigger. I find it’s easiest to use a large, sharp knife, and plunge it into the side of the pumpkin near the stem. Slide the knife all the way down to the bottom of the pumpkin. Then repeat on the other side. Use the knife to pry the pumpkin open. Remove the stem, if desired.

Scoop out all of the “guts” and set aside. We’ll be using those later!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Place the pumpkin halves “meat” side down. You will have the shell side up, which helps hold in the heat better to roast the insides.

Place the cookie sheet and pumpkin halves into the preheated oven, and roast for 40-60 minutes. Your pumpkin is done roasting when you can easily pierce the meat with a fork, and the skin is pulling away from the meat a little bit.

Remove your pumpkin halves from the oven, and allow to cool. Scoop the tender flesh out of the tougher shell, and place it into a food processor or a powerful blender. Chop and blend until a it’s a nice, smooth consistency.

This puree can be stored in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for several months. Please note: pumpkin isn’t safe to can at home, as it is too dense.

You can also dehydrate the pumpkin puree to save storage space, and maybe even make your own pumpkin spice latte from the powder!

Using pumpkin puree

Homemade pumpkin puree is a wonderful addition to cakes, breads, and cookies. It is so moist, and you will just love the subtle flavor it adds to all kinds of foods.

Pumpkin bars

This is a recipe that was passed down to me from my mom. I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie, but these pumpkin bars are one of my absolute favorite fall desserts. You have to give them a try!

Ingredients:

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Add all dry ingredients, and mix until well blended. Pour into 11X17″ cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

Ingredients:

1 (4 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened

1 cube (1/2 cup) margarine or butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Beat cream cheese and butter together until well blended and lumps are removed. Add vanilla, then gradually add powdered sugar, mixing constantly on low speed until it is the consistency you like. Spread on pumpkin bars.

 

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie isn’t my favorite, unless it’s got a GENEROUS helping of ice cream or whipped cream on top! But this pumpkin pie recipe from Inspired Taste is great. It even has a link to their delicious homemade pie crust if you’re wanting to make it totally from scratch.

Pumpkin pie recipe from Inspired Taste
photo via Inspired Taste

 

Pumpkin cookies

Pumpkin cookies are another one of my favorites. They are so soft and moist! If you’ve never made them, you should absolutely try these soft pumpkin cookies from Lovely Little Kitchen. You could even add some of the cream cheese frosting above on them!

Soft pumpkin cookies recipe from Lovely Little Kitchen
photo via Lovely Little Kitchen

 

Pumpkin bread

I normally prefer zucchini bread over pumpkin bread, but this pumpkin bread recipe from Life, Love, and Sugar is definitely worth mentioning. It’s so moist, with a delightful pumpkin and spice flavor. I might even consider adding chocolate chips to it for a twist!

Pumpkin bread from Life Love and Sugar
photo via Life Love and Sugar

 

Pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake might not normally come directly to mind when thinking of a delicious new pumpkin dessert, but it’s a great new addition to my favorite desserts. I love this pumpkin cheesecake recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. The cream cheese blends with the pumpkin perfectly, completely omitting the need for ice cream or whipped cream. And the crust is to-die-for!

Pumpkin cheesecake recipe from Natasha's Kitchen
photo via Natasha’s Kitchen

Pumpkin butter

Pumpkin butter is delicious and so very versatile. Use it to spread on toast, muffins, or as a filling for a cake or scones. This pumpkin butter from Minimalist Baker whips up in 20 minutes, and is so full of flavor. You’ve got to give it a try this fall!

Easy 20 minute pumpkin butter
photo via Minimalist Baker

Using pumpkin seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack for fall. Just remove the seeds from the guts, give them a rinse, then dry with a towel as much as possible. Toss in some olive oil and your desired seasonings. Then bake them in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, turning over once.

If eating the pumpkin seeds yourself isn’t your thing, you can feed them to your animals. Chickens, goats, and rabbits especially like pumpkin seeds. And bonus, pumpkin seeds are a natural dewormer for your animals!

 

Using pumpkin guts

When I talk about the pumpkin guts, I mean the stringy stuff that you pull out with the seeds from a pumpkin. You know, the part that usually gets thrown in the trash or compost pile. But there is a few uses for them!

Vegetable stock

The pumpkin guts usually have a stronger flavor than the pumpkin flesh. So they make a good addition to vegetable stock. To make vegetable stock, simply save up your vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer. We’re talking onion skins, wilted celery, garlic skins, and even potato peels. Yep, put those stringy pumpkin guts in there too! They will impart a delicate pumpkin flavor, without being overpowering.

Pumpkin gut bread

If you want to be REALLY frugal, consider making pumpkin gut bread! It uses the stringy guts that you scoop out before making your pumpkin puree. Rough chopping the guts is the best way to keep from having “stringies” in your bread. Here is a great recipe I found for pumpkin gut bread from Eating Richly.

Pumpkin gut bread from Eating Richly
photo via Eating Richly

Dehydrate the guts

If you don’t have an immediate use for the pumpkin guts, throw them in the dehydrator! Dehydrate them at 125 degrees for at least 8 hours. These crumble quite easily when they are fully dried. The crumbles can then be rehydrated or used in an instant pumpkin spice mix.

 

Using pumpkin skins

Once you’ve roasted your pumpkins for pumpkin puree, is there anything that can be done with the leftover skins? Yes there is. You can make pumpkin chips!

While this isn’t something that I’ve tried, I might need to try it in the future. You can take the skins and cut them up into chip-sized pieces, cover in olive oil and any spices that you want. Then bake in the oven until they are crisp.

 

Storing pumpkins

Pumpkins do amazingly well in a root cellar. Most will last for up to about 6 months. If you have a root cellar, use it to your advantage. Nothing like having a fresh pumpkin to roast in the dreary late winter months!

If you don’t have a root cellar but still want to store your pumpkins whole, consider putting them in a cool dry basement. No basement? Maybe try a cool, dark pantry or closet. 60 degrees is the ideal temperature to store root vegetables like pumpkins.

If you’ve made puree out of your pumpkins, you can store it for about a week in the fridge. I think the best way to do this is in a Mason jar.

To store your pumpkin puree for longer, put it in measured portions in a Ziploc bag. I like to do 2 cup portions, as that’s what most of my pumpkin recipes call for.

It’s a little more work, but dehydrating pumpkin powder is great, and saves freezer space! Simply make your pumpkin puree, and spread it on a sheet of parchment paper in your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 125 degrees for 10-12 hours. When it is fully dry, crumble it into a jar. Put a lid on it and store it in a cool, dry location.

When you need to use your dehydrated pumpkin puree, add 1/2 cup of powder to 1 1/2 cups water. Once it has rehydrated, give it a good stir. You will end up with 2 cups of pumpkin puree.

Storing pumpkins in a root cellar is best for longer term storage

 

Do you use all of the pumpkin?

Self reliance is using all of something that you have grown, foraged, or hunted. Using every part of the pumpkin results in less waste. If you’re already putting effort into growing something, doesn’t it make sense to use every part of it?

Make the most use out of your homegrown pumpkins with these tips! Do you have any other tips to add? Please share in the comments!


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