So whose brilliant idea was it to do the pumpkin massacre? It resulted in a pile of twelve pumpkins (not including minis) that needed to be processed. This past Sunday I decided to tackle some of them.
In order to keep from having a mass of rotting pumpkins hanging out around the house, I decided to puree the pumpkins and then freeze it for future use. Let's just say that our family will have plenty of pumpkin bread, cookies, pie and rolls through the end of the year. I also might try my hand at some pumpkin bisque. We'll see how creative I get.
Sunday I spent four and a half hours working on this and finished up the scrap pile from carving (putting those eyes and mouths to good use), five mini pumpkins and one of our regular sized pumpkins. The process is a bit messy and appears to be time consuming, but really there's quite a bit of down time. Collin has promised to help me do more over the next couple of weeks, but I need to restock my tupperware supply first or see how handy my freezer bags can be.
Now you're probably sitting there thinking that I'm nuts. Alright, fine...I'll go along with that. But really, I promise you that this isn't difficult. You can do it! There are two different methods for cooking the pumpkins. I did both just so I could let you know the benefits and downfalls of each.
The first thing you need to do is cut and core your pumpkins. I started with the mini pumpkins. I cut them straight down the middle with a serrated knife. I teased some of the seeds out onto a cookie sheet for later toasting. I didn't work super hard at this. If they came out easily without being attached to a pile of goo, great. If they didn't, into the trash they went.
After getting the easily accessible seeds out, I cored the rest of the pumpkin shells using my ice cream scooper. This is SO much easier than using a spoon. It grabs the sides well and gets the goo out pretty quickly.
Once they were cut, this is where I broke into the two cooking methods. I cooked the mini pumpkins and some of the large pumpkin using a microwave method and the remaining large pumpkin using the oven method. The whole point of the baking process is to be able to remove the shell as well as soften the meat of the pumpkin.
For either method you'll need a heat safe dish with a lid. For my microwaving I used a glass casserole dish that I've had forever. It actually used to be my mom's. For the oven batch I used a large roasting pan. Cut the pumpkin into sections that will easily fit into the pan. Fill the bottom of the pan with 1-2 inches of water. This will keep the pumpkin from drying out during the baking process.
Put the lid on your pan. For the oven method, set the oven to 325 degrees. For the microwave path, set the microwave pan in the microwave. (I think you can see where this is heading.) For the mini pumpkins, I ran each batch in the microwave for 15 minutes. For the larger pumpkin the rind was a little thicker so I ran those pieces for 18 minutes. The oven batch took an hour and twenty minutes. Uh ya, pretty much forever. You know your batch is done when the shell starts to pull away from the meat and the meat is soft. (It's very similar to blanching and peeling tomatoes.)
Remove the shells and collect your pieces in a bowl. I used tongs and a fork for this process because those little buggars get hot and can burn your finger tips pretty quickly. The peeling generally went really easily and the rinds came off in one piece. I had nice little assembly line going so that while I was processing the cooked batch, another was running in the microwave. The oven batch just continued to cook and didn't finish until after I had processed all of the microwave pumpkin.
Process the cooked pieces in a food processor to get a nice puree. I used my meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. It worked perfectly. (Hint...set the collection bowl in the sink and puree over it. This can get a little messy.) You don't want a lot of water in the finished puree - it should have the consistency of baby food. I failed to take pictures of the finished puree buckets because...well, apparently I occasionally have mini-strokes, but you can get an idea of what it should look like by the tupperware in the left side of the above picture. It's pretty thick.
Once I had all the microwave pumpkin done, the oven pumpkin was FINALLY finished. It peeled a little more difficultly and created more of a water issue during the pureeing. Oh...I should've mentioned before...don't wear nice clothes to do this. I had a pretty good pumpkin/water stain down the front of my sweatshirt by the time I was finished. I also had some small accidents where I forced the pumpkin through the grinder too fast, resulting in pumpkin splatter on my kitchen counter and backsplash. Nothing a little wipedown couldn't fix.
Overall, not bad. The oven cooking, while it allows faster cooking of the larger pumpkin, was kind of a pain in the butt. I'm going to try another batch with a longer cooking time to see if the peeling gets easier, but for right now I'm thinking that the microwaving is the way to go. The peeling was simple and the puree turned out to have a nicer consistency.
Oh...and because I know you're dying to know...how much can pumpkin scraps, 5 mini-pumpkins and one large pumpkin make? How about 30 cups...ya...we'll be rolling in the pumpkin for a while. Thank goodness it freezes well.
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