Maybe, like me, you still have a few pumpkins left from a CSA that ended at Thanksgiving. Intimidated by cooking them? Don’t be. I’ll show you step-by-step how to cut and cook pumpkins, preserve the puree, toast the seeds, and make fresh pumpkin bread that blows away anything you’ve made using canned pumpkin pie filling.
Frozen puree will last several months, so it should get you through the winter packed into freezer-safe containers or even Ziploc bags with the air pressed out.
You can also put up pumpkin puree for long-term storage, but it requires a pressure canner, not a hot water bath for safety reasons. The same goes for winter squash. Both MUST be cubed & cooked before being canned. Here are some great instructions.
But first things first. Before you can make pumpkin bread, you need to make pumpkin puree … and to do that, you need to learn how to cut & hull a pumpkin.The easiest way to slice a pumpkin is to make sure you have a sharp knife and a sturdy surface to work on. A serrated knife, like this one, works best — if you use a very sharp knife and slip, you could really hurt yourself. Cut the pumpkin in half using a sawing motion, then set aside the two halves.
I used to think that cooking pumpkins always involved the oven, but turns out that’s not true at all — in fact, it uses less energy to fire up your microwave. (I also used to think you had to peel pumpkins and winter squash to cook them, but thankfully, you DON’T!) Place the pumpkin halves face up in a glass dish and fill with a couple inches of water. Cover and heat on high for 10 minutes; repeat until soft and mushy, usually two or three times depending on the strength of your microwave. You can usually get a good couple of cups of puree out of a small pumpkin.
If you are freezing your pumpkin, just scoop it into freezer-safe containers (you don’t need to mash it), then label and store. Whenever you want to use it, simply defrost in the fridge or warm in the microwave.
Note: If you prefer not to use a microwave or don’t have one, you can cook pumpkin on the stove top or in the oven. Just cook the pumpkin halves in a steamer on the stove top for about 10 minutes, or bake in the oven (this takes the longest) by placing the pumpkin plus several cups of water in a covered oven-proof dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350, until a fork-poke shows they’re soft. With both of these methods, the skins should fall right away when they’re done.
SAVORY ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Now that your pumpkin is cooked and stored, it’s time to turn those seeds into a healthful snack. Pumpkins (and their seeds) are considered super foods, packed with antioxidants and high in fiber and protein, making them a powerhouse for vegetarians especially.
First, wash the seeds well, separating the stringy material and guck from the seeds. I used my hands at first and then gave them a thorough final rinse in a colander before setting them out on paper towels to dry (you can speed this along with a hair dryer if you want!) It’s critical that they’re not soggy when they go into the oven.
Preheat the oven to 275 and spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet. To season, toss with vegetable oil or butter and any combination of seasonings you like: classic sea salt, something spicy like cayenne & thyme, or sweet such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, or ginger for a kick, or garlic powder & Worcestershire sauce … or my favorite, good old Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute, which is a salt-free spice blend.
Pumpkin Bread Recipe
- 3 1/2 cups of flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup oil
- 2/3 cup water
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups pumpkin (or 1 can pumpkin pie filling)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift flour and mix in remaining dry ingredients.
- Combine wet ingredients.
- Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
- Grease/spray loaf pans.
- Bake for 1 hour; it may need an hour and 15.
- Loaves are done when a toothpick into the center comes out clean.
Other fun uses for pureed pumpkin:
- Stir 1/2 cup of into pancake batter; add walnuts for pumpkin-nut pancakes
- Using the recipe above, turn pumpkin batter into waffles instead; or, use the finished bread to make pumpkin french toast
- Blend 1/4 cup pumpkin puree with cream cheese and cinnamon; spread on a bagel
- Stir pumpkin puree into your morning oatmeal; top with brown sugar
- Make homemade pumpkin gnocchi
- Make vegan pumpkin tiramisu a la Chef Chloe
- Stir pumpkin puree into risotto just before it’s done cooking
- Freeze the puree in an ice tray to make cubes ready for smoothies, like this one
Do you have other ideas? Send them my way in the comments!