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    Musings on Monday {Pumpkin Edition}

    September 12, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I am dedicating today to All Things Pumpkin, because pumpkins are pretty much all I had time to think about this weekend. Well, that, and pre-reading for this week of lessons. I think I already bragged about mentioned my harvest of five giant pumpkins. One of the smaller ones was given to a neighbor, and the rest were for processing.

    I thought I’d do an all-in-one processing and storage post for today–a rambling musing upon pumpkins.

    For the record: we love pumpkins. I have a number of desserts I make with them throughout the holidays, plus a couple of actual meal side-dishes, which we’ll get to.

    So far, I have one pumpkin left to go. I should have been smarter about this and only processed one pumpkin on Saturday, but I ventured to do two. The issue is really not number, but size. My oven cannot even hold one whole pumpkin at a time, which certainly backed up the process.

    Here is my waste-not, want-not version of pumpkin processing:

    • Have husband quarter pumpkins. My last surviving cutting knife is not exactly the sharpest blade on the block. You likely could do this yourself if you own a good knife. Often, quarters are good enough. My variety of pumpkin this year was a Cinderella style, which means that, even when quartered, it is hard to get the seeds out, so I cut each of those quarters in half again {perpendicular to the original cut} to open them up. Sigh. I wish I’d taken pictures.
    • Scrape out seeds and pulp with a spoon, but do not discard. First, you’re going to have to decide what to do with your seeds. For seeds you are going to roast and snack on, place in a bowl of water {pulp attached, of course}. Whatever pulp you can salvage, put in one bowl, while placing clean seeds in another. Sometimes running water is more helpful, but I try not to waste water in this desert if I can help it. For seeds you are going to save for next year’s planting, place them {pulp and all} in a bowl of filtered water for fermenting. Fermenting takes 2-4 days and kills seed-borne diseases*. I choose seeds from the pumpkin I liked best off of the vine I liked best. Do not just consider size of the pumpkin. Consider how much meat it actually had, and whether it showed signs of greater disease, fungal, or insect resistance when compared with the rest of the crop. {This is easier when you only have a few pumpkins to work with!} All other seeds {as well as leftover pulp} can be fed to poultry. If you do not keep poultry, might I suggest taking the kids to your nearest pond and feeding it to some local waterbirds? They tend to love pumpkin, in my experience, and it is a good source of nourishment for them {especially compared with the bread folks usually feed them}. You probably don’t want that many seeds in your compost.
    • Bake pumpkins. I pretty much do this. Bake on 350. It takes over an hour in my oven, but I probably overstuff it. Let cool a little before you do your next step.
    • Scrape meat away from skin and place in a blender. I find I can fill a blender almost full without problems. Usually, this will not need added water, but if your blender isn’t blending, add a tiny bit of filtered water to get it going. Once the skin has been cooked, birds can eat it! My duck flock loves it. If you don’t keep birds, you could put some out in your backyard just to see if it attracts anything. If not, composting the skin is good.
    • Drain the puree. Do not skip this step if you want consistency in your baking! Place a colander in a bowl and line it with a tea towel or paper towel. Fill the colander and let it drain. I usually let it drain for two hours. This is why it takes me so long to process a pumpkin.
    • Store the pumpkin water. I said this was waste-not, want-not, right? All that water surely has some of the vitamins and minerals in it. I store it in my freezer in quart containers. I call it my “pumpkin broth” and it is good for cooking rice in, or adding to soups that call for vegetable broth {as long as I don’t use more than half-pumpkin broth in the recipe}. Once I had a gallon, I poured the rest into my compost. I just didn’t have any room left in the freezer.
    • Store puree in freezer bags and lay flat in your freezer to freeze. The size is up to you. The vast majority of my pumpkin recipes call for 2 cups. So I use quart bags and store them in 2-cup and 4-cup portions {because I often double my recipes}. So far I have 22 cups, and my biggest pumpkin of all is still sitting on my counter! Note: keeping a pumpkin for a couple weeks on your counter is no problem, as long as the temperature doesn’t go over 85 degrees. During this time, it will cure and heal any surface scrapes.
    • Roast your seeds. I am saving my seeds until I’m all done, and then I’ll roast a big batch all at once. This is my favorite seed recipe.
    • Dry your seeds for planting. Separate them from the pulp and feed the pulp to your poultry, or put it in your compost. Lay them out on a paper towel in a warm {but not hot} space and they’re ready in about a week. Store them in an envelope and keep them in a cool, dry place.
    • Use the frozen puree at your leisure. This is the fun part. We make pie, turkey cookies, and more. Last night, I made pumpkin “pancakes” to go with dinner. I also like to bring pumpkin cake bars with cinnamon icing to our small group meeting during fall and early winter. The options are endless.

    Link your favorite pumpkin recipe in the comments!

    *According to my trusty Encyclopedia of Country Living.

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    9 Comments

  • Reply Phyllis October 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    We like pumpkin curry soup. The recipe is in the comments of this VERY old post of mine:
    http://fylliska.blogspot.com/2006/10/pumpkin-soup-and-other-things.html

    (I’m catching up on your blog tonight. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Oh. And all of my other big knives have lost their handles. Double frowny face.

    πŸ™ πŸ™

    πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 13, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Unfortunately, it is serrated. πŸ™

    Unless there is a way to sharpen serrated knives and we are just ignorant??

  • Reply Rahime September 13, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Brandy, Get that wonderful husband of yours to sharpen your knife/knives! Not that it isn’t wonderful that he cuts the pumpkins for you or anything, but really… ;o)

    Your pumpkin weekend sounds lovely. I love pumpkins. Really, they’re one of the best parts of autumn. Ours still, unfortunately, come from the grocery store though.

  • Reply Kansas Mom September 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Here’s our favorite quick bread:
    http://allrecipes.com/recipe/downeast-maine-pumpkin-bread/detail.aspx

    I just use two cups of puree instead of the canned pumpkin.

    Here are some pumpkin posts from the blog:
    http://ourhomeontherange.blogspot.com/2009/10/pumpkin-recipes.html

    and
    http://ourhomeontherange.blogspot.com/2009/10/more-pumpkin-goodness.html

    We don’t have any pumpkins this year. (We don’t have anything this year.) Perhaps if they’re cheap at the store I’ll ask Kansas Dad to bring some home. For a while there, I was making that pumpkin bread two or three times a month and we gobbled it up every time.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 13, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Kelly, I had no idea the cheesecloth at a fabric store was tighter weave! All these years when I have made cream cheese, I have always had my store-bought cheesecloth folded over and over to make it tight enough. Who knew? πŸ™‚ Thank you for the tip…I will definitely try it.

    Dana, I looked at your recipe and I cannot wait to sample it. I think the kids will love it and your sandwich suggestion sounds yummy, too. πŸ™‚

    Kristen, I wish you were here, too! The kids would have such fun making the turkey cookies together. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kristen @ Dem Golden Apples September 13, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I love pumpkin! This gets me wanting to find some around here. I wish we were close enough to come over and share your pumpkin treats. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Go quickly and tell September 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    My favorite way to use fresh pumpkin puree is in soup!

    http://hiddenart.blogspot.com/2004/10/pumpkin-soup-1-small-onion-very-finely.html

  • Reply Kelly September 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    You might be able to speed up draining time if you do it like I do my cheese — tie up the four ends of the cloth and hang it from a knob on an upper cabinet, above a bowl (I hang it from a short bungee, but you could also use a clothes hanger). I use cheesecloth I’ve bought at the fabric store (the “cheesecloth” they sell in grocery stores is actually gauze and way too open to be useful for this). That way maybe you can do more than one batch at a time.

    My favorite pumpkin recipe is pumpkin butter, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted the recipe. I’ll have to do that and get back with you.

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