Category Archives: Vegetables

Pumpkin – How do I Use My Halloween/Fall pumpkins?

how to preserve pumpkin, how to freeze pumpkinHere is a picture of my son’s cute Halloween pumpkin that he brought home from school this year. I loved displaying it on our front porch. But after Halloween is over, how can we use these leftover pumpkins?

Pumpkin may be one freezer/pantry item that is easy to overlook. But don’t let your leftover pumpkins go to waste – they are chock full of nutrition! I personally love pumpkin, and it is something that I like to keep on hand regularly. Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin A, with just ½ cup giving 280% of the daily recommended value for Vitamin A intake!

Purchasing canned pumpkin from the grocery store and stocking it in your pantry is the easiest way to keep it on hand. But I also love to cook and freeze fresh pumpkin from all of those extra pumpkins in the Fall, especially after Halloween. Be aware that large pumpkins tend to be more stringy and watery, and not as sweet or flavorful as small pumpkins, so I would only recommend pureeing and freezing the small pumpkins. Here are the easy steps of how to prepare and freeze fresh pumpkin, if you have the time and some extra pumpkins on hand that you are wondering what to do with!

(Note: Previously frozen pumpkin is mushy when thawed, compared to canned pumpkin. Because of this, it works best in soups or something like a smoothie. For baking recipes, you can still use it successfully, but you will need to drain out extra moisture after the pumpkin has thawed, and you may also need to increase your baking time 10-15 minutes. 2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree = one 15oz can of packed pumpkin in recipes)

How to Puree and Freeze Pumpkin

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash pumpkin, and cut it in half.How to cut a pumpkin for roastingHow to roast pumpkin
  3. Cut off the stem on top, and remove seeds (you may want to keep the seeds for roasting for a snack later). If it is a larger pumpkin, cut into cooking-size sections.how to roast a pumpkin
  4. Place the pumpkin pieces face-down on a lined baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, or until the flesh is soft and can easily be pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, you may bring a large pot of water to boil, add sliced pumpkin, and cook in boiling water until soft. You may also steam or microwave the pumpkin. I prefer to roast my pumpkin in the oven, because it is the easiest and cleanest.)how to roast pumpkin
  5. Remove pumpkin pieces from the oven, and allow them to cool. Scrape the cooked pumpkin out of the shell.How to roast pumpkinHow to roast and puree pumpkin
  6. Puree chunks in a food processor or blender. (If your pumpkin puree seems watery, allow it to drain in a fine-mesh strainer or through a cheesecloth until the excess water has been removed.) Your pumpkin will puree into a beautiful, creamy texture. How to make homemade pumpkin puree
  7. Place pumpkin puree into freezer bags, in portion sizes that you will use in recipes. (I like to freeze puree in 2 cup portion sizes, which would replace a can of pumpkin in a recipe.) Leave ½ inch space at the top of the bag, between the top of the puree and the bag’s opening, to allow for expansion when freezing.How to roast and freeze pumpkin puree
  8. Flatten bags to remove excess air. Seal, label, and place bags in freezer. Frozen puree can maintain high quality for 12-18 months at 0 degrees F.

Wondering how to use your canned or frozen pumpkin? See healthy pumpkin recipes below:

Orange-Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins

The Easiest Way to Preserve Tomatoes!

How to freeze tomatoesI love tomato season, when you can get fully ripe, fresh tomatoes from your garden! This year I only had a few tomato plants in my garden, but I have been able to benefit from local farmers’ larger crops. I recently bought a full bushel (54 lbs) of locally grown, ripened on the vine tomatoes for $16! They were much cheaper, and MUCH better tasting than ones you can buy in the store! Which is why it was worth it to buy so many tomatoes in bulk, and preserve them for later use during the year.

I will just say that I am not big into canning. It can be hot, messy, and time consuming. When I was completing my Master Gardener certification in 2014, I learned from two of my fellow, more experienced gardeners (who were tending a tomato bed with me for the season), that the easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them! Before that, I had never thought of freezing tomatoes before. So I called my local food preservation extension office, who confirmed that you can freeze tomatoes for up to one year while retaining full nutritional value. So easy!!! I have frozen a lot of tomatoes since then. Here are the simple steps below:

How to Freeze Whole Tomatoes – 3 Steps:

  1. Wash tomatoes with lukewarm water. Remove any green stems. Do not cut them – leave whole. 
  2. Place tomatoes in a single layer into a gallon-sized freezer bag, or other freezer safe container and seal. If using a ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible before sealing. (If the tomatoes are placed in a single layer in the bag, they do not stick together when frozen. However, if you want to fill a bag or container with tomatoes stacked on top of one another, you should freeze the tomatoes on a cookie sheet before putting them into the freezer container to prevent them sticking together during freezing.)
  3. Label and date the container (frozen tomatoes should be used within one year to retain maximum nutritional value). Place in freezer. Voila – you are done!

freeze tomatoes, easiest way to preserve tomatoes

 

Other options for freezing tomatoes:

You can peel the tomatoes before freezing (skins remove easily if you blanch whole tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then place the tomatoes in ice water.) You may dice, puree, or cut the tomatoes in slices (freeze slices separately on a cookie sheet, and then stack with parchment paper between them), depending on how you would like to use them in recipes later.

 Is blanching necessary?

(Some other sites will say that you do, but no, you don’t have to blanch tomatoes before freezing. Check out this article from Michigan State University’s research-based extension office, which explains that you CAN blanch to help remove skins before freezing, but otherwise it is unnecessary if you want to leave the skins on.)

How do you Use Frozen Tomatoes?

When you are ready to use your whole, frozen tomatoes, thaw them slightly and cut out the top centers where the stem was attached, while they are still slightly frozen and hard. (If you wait until they are completely thawed before cutting out the centers, the tomatoes will become mushy and will be difficult to work with, so handle them before they completely thaw!) Previously frozen tomatoes are best in tomato sauces or soups, because as I just mentioned, the cell structure breaks down and they become quite mushy when completely thawed. A link to one of my favorite recipes using frozen tomatoes is below. I make this recipe throughout the winter when fresh garden tomatoes are long past being available.

Recipe Links

Best Garden-Fresh Tomato Soup