Here 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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash pumpkin, and cut it in half.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Remove pumpkin pieces from the oven, and allow them to cool. Scrape the cooked pumpkin out of the shell.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.