There are a few previous posts on finding, choosing, buying,storing, or dehydrating pumpkin-

This one is on just preparing it.  If you want pumpkin recipes, see The Great Pumpkin e-book, available for free.

The simple version is: cook until soft, mash or puree, use or store it.  If you need details, this is the post for you!

I prefer to steam my pumpkin, that way I can keep the skin on and get the extra fiber and minerals from it, and waste less.  You can bake it if you prefer; cut in half, clean out the insides, and bake, cut-side down on a cookie sheet.  Plan on about an hour at 350 degrees. Baking is a better option if you're using a thick-skinned squash like Hubbard or Acorn (which work fine in pumpkin recipes, by the way).

If you're steaming it, start by scrubbing off any dirt.  If there are little blemishes, cut them out or scrape them off with a paring knife.  Some are only skin-deep.  Cut off the steam and blossom end.  Those little brownish-grey bits never will soften up.  They won't hurt you, but they're not pleasant to eat.

Cut the pumpkin in half.  Scrape out the strings and seeds.  A spoon is a great tool.  Don't worry about getting all the strings out.  They puree.  Seeds don't. 

Cut the pumpkin in strips about 1 to 2" wide.  These will be C-shaped.  Turn them on their sides and cut crosswise to make roughly square-shaped pieces.

Put about 1" of water in the largest pot you have.  When it comes to a boil, fill the pan with the pumpkin pieces.  Bring back to a boil, put a lid on it, and let simmer until tender.  It takes about the same amount of time as it does to boil cubed potatoes: about 30 minutes for bigger chunks, less for smaller ones.

When the pumpkin is done, it will be translucent.  A fork or knife poked into a piece will meet no resistance.  You can still puree it without it being fully cooked, but it's harder on the machine.
Mash with a potato masher if that's all you have (but it won't get rid of strings).  I use a blender and usually have to add about 1/4 c. of the cooking water to get it to puree.   A food processor would work great. 

If you have more puree than you'll use within a week, measure the extra into containers or freezer bags.  How much will you use at once?  Store that much in each container.  I always make two pumpkins pies at a time, which takes 4 cups.  So I freeze pumpkin in 4-cup batches.  If you only want 1 cup at a time for a batch of cookies, freeze some in that amount.  Label them with the contents, amount, and the date.  Best if used within a year, but they'll be fine so long as they don't get freezer-burned.  It won't make you sick even then, but you'll need more spices to hide that nasty flavor.  I sometimes find 3- or 4-year-old bags hiding in the back of the freezer; they cook up just fine.
So that the bags lie flat for storing, you can freeze them on a cookie sheet.  This has another benefit- if your bag happens to pop open while freezing, spills are caught on the tray.  Yep, I learned this one the hard way.  Actually, they'll stack in a less space if you freeze them already stacked up.  Just make sure those bags are going to stay closed!

This reminds me of a quote seen today: "Always learn from others' mistakes.  You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself."

What about the seeds you scraped out?  Well, you can toss the whole lot out into a flowerbed or pot outside, and see what grows next year.  We prefer to eat them.  With your fingers, sort out the seeds.  It's a slippery job, but you'll get the hang of it.  The strings go in the compost pile outside.  If you want to save seeds for next year, put some of the seeds on a paper towel and let them airdry for a couple weeks.  Store them in a paper bag or paper envelope.  They'll mold if stored in plastic.  Label them!  Be aware that unless you have a non-hybrid pumpkin, what grows next year will not be exactly the same size, shape, or variety.  But it will be pumpkin.  Plant in the spring after the last frost.  Plant 3-4 seeds close together, and allow them about a 2-4 foot radius for the vines to spread out.

To bake them instead, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of oil (this makes them MUCH easier to chew and digest!), sprinkle with salt, and bake until they've turned golden brown.  Use any temperature from 350 to 400 degrees, baking will take anywhere from 7-20 minutes, depending how wet they were and how hot the oven is.



Heather Ingalls
11/09/2011 10:38

I just processed my pumpkins yielding 48 cups of puree! I have an awesome pumpkin soup recipe if you want it. How are you guys doing? :)


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