Friday, October 31, 2008

How to "Recycle" your Pumpkin!

Happy Halloween everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the day, hopefully preparing for a fun time tonight! After all the fun is done and November starts tomorrow, what will you do with your jack-o-lantern?

a) Let it sit out on the front step until it shrivels into "old man pumpkin"
b) Toss it in the garbage can
c) Turn it into a fall feast

Since this blog is all about turning "trash into treasure," I am going to share how you can do the same with your pumpkin! While it does sound like hard work, option "c" really is not as hard as it sounds and can be a great family activity, and a way to celebrate the coming of Thanksgiving!

My mom has always made pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving out of, you guessed it, our Halloween jack-o-lanterns. So, I have developed a taste for this REAL pumpkin pie and have never had another pie that was nearly as good. Then again, I've never met anyone else who makes pumpkin out of real, fresh pumpkin, not the canned stuff. I have concluded that it's because of the real pumpkin. That, and maybe every mom's secret ingredient of "love."

Don't waste your pumpkins this year!! Here's how you can turn it into delicious pumpkin pie, bread, and roasted seeds!

How to cook the pumpkin:
This takes a little time but you can freeze it, and bake yummy pumpkin treats whenever you're ready!
1) Cut your clean, hollowed out pumpkin into chunks, 6"-8" or so. (Best to do right after Halloween so you don't have a dried out pumpkin!) Leave the skin on.

2) Lay pieces, skin side up, in 2-3 layers in a large turkey roaster pan with 1" water in the bottom.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake approx. 1/2 hour at 350 degrees, until tender. (test, if knife slides into pumpkin easily. My Mom has some magical powers, because I find mine takes a LOT longer than a half hour this way. so I prefer to steam in a pot on the stove:

...or cook it in the microwave (also covered with water added):

Choose whatever method best suits the amount of pumpkin you have, and amount of time you have.)

However you choose to cook it, when you can easily slide a knife, fork, or spoon into the flesh, it is done. Here's what it looks like done...the skins get darker and the flesh gets a little more translucent:

3) With a large spoon, scoop soft pumpkin out of skins. Discard the skins.

4) Place pumpkin chunks in blender about 1/2 full (or 1/2 empty if you're pessimist!). Add water to fill blender. Puree.

5) Pour into colander and drain the water.

6) Move on to recipes below! Or, if you aren't going to bake your goodies right away, freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions. (1 cup = 1 pie or 1 loaf of bread) I like to freeze it labeled, in a baggie:

If you want to be more "green," you can even freeze it in empty food containers.

Gretchen's Mom's Pumpkin Pie (makes one 10", or two 8"-9" pies)

Crust for TWO 8" or 9" pies:
2 C flour, 1 tsp salt
2/3 C + 2 Tbsp shortening
4-6 Tbsp cold water

Crust for ONE 10" pie:
1-1/3 C Flour, 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
3-4 Tbsp cold water

Measure flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Add water. Shape into ball, roll out, place in pan(s). Do not bake or prick the bottom.

Pie Filling:
2 C cooked & pureed pumpkin
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 C milk

MIX pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt and spices. Add milk gradually to keep smooth.
POUR into unbaked shell. Mixture will be sloppy at this point. To keep edges of crust from burning, cover the edges with foil.
BAKE 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool, cut, top with cool whip, and enjoy the fruits of your labor! You can also do what my mom does, and freeze the pies to enjoy on Thanksgiving.

Gretchen's Mom's Pumpkin Bread: (makes 2 loaves)
Sift together dry ingredients:
3-1/3 C flour
2-2/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

Add 1 C oil and 2 C pumpkin.
Beat 2 minutes.
Add 2 eggs and 2/3 C water. Fold in 1/2 C chopped nuts if desired.
Pour into 2 greased, floured loaf pans.
Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool on rack.
Enjoy warm, sliced with butter, or freeze the whole loaf to enjoy later!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
Wash seeds and drain in colander. Melt 4 Tbsp butter and mix with 1/2 tsp garlic salt, and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Toss with seeds, coating well. Spread seeds on a foil lined pan. Bake at 275 degrees, stirring about every 5 minutes, until toasted and lightly browned. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Do not in a sealed bowl on the counter...if they last that long!


Janet said...

actually jack o lantern pumpkins are not eating pumpkins, they are grown specifically for carving. if you want to eat a pumpkin, you need to use pumpkins labelled "sugar" or "pie". Carving pumpkins are low in sugar and high in moisture, making them pretty gross to use in baking applications. The seeds are good for eating though!

Gretchen Fleener said...

That's interesting! I have never heard that or seen specially labeled pumpkins. Our Halloween carving pumpkins have always made the most delicious pie & bread I've ever tasted! Where do you find pumpkins labeled specifically for pie?

CrewJulie said...

Great instructions! But how long have your pumpkins been out - I always assumed if they had been out a bit that they would have germs that you wouldn't want to then chance having in your food.

Since you have posted this and done it in the past I'm sure it works, but in the pureeing step it seems like a lot of water - do you really need to add water? I always assumed you could just puree the flesh alone. That is what I have done with "pie" or "sugar" pumpkins.

Where I live (the South) pie and sugar pumpkins are sold in the grocery in the produce section and sometimes next to regular pumpkins. I have also seen them at pumpkin patches.

I put Cajun seasoning on my seeds this year and they were great!

Gretchen Fleener said...

Good questions! I have had mine out on the front step UN-carved for a week or so, but I carved it on Halloween morning and cooked it that night. This year mine never made it out to the front step carved, as we were not home for the trick-or-treaters. However, when I was growing up we'd carve them the night of the 30th, and then my mom would cook them no later than Nov 1. So, they would only sit outside CARVED on Halloween night. But I would think that the heat of cooking would get rid of any germs in the process??

The water I add just to help the blender puree better. But, had my food processor not just recently broken, I think I could probably have done it in there without water just fine, especially when the pumpkin is really soft from cooking.

That's cool you have pie and sugar pumpkins in your grocery store! We pretty much only see the carving pumpkins around here in MN, and only around Halloween. :-( And if I think THOSE are good, I can't imagine how good your pumpkins are! ;-)

Cajun seasoning is a great idea! Yummmmm!

FinnyKnits said...

Thank you for this! I have a bunch from the garden that haven't gotten carved up because I wanted to pumpkin pie-ize them.

Now I have all the instructions right here. Awesome!

k8inorbit said...

I think technically the sugar pumpkins are better for baking, but I also know plenty of people who recycle their carving pumpkins too. Some foodies may not approve, but you certainly aren't the only family to do this.

(I guess it's also possible you're just carving sugar pumpkins without knowing it. They don't look all that different, just smaller. And if you grab your pumpkins at the grocery store, sometimes you're just getting the sugar ones.)

Here's my mom's method, which she's used for years and now taught me:
Mix the recycled pumpkin with traditional canned filling. Mom always felt that the carving pumkins didn't have enough flavor to stand on their own. However, she also thinks canned pumpkin pie filling is usually way too sweet. By mixing the two she seems to have found a great balance. The results are certainly tasty! (Also, you get more pies this way, something our family requires.)

Lynae said...

I followed this procedure for "recycling" a pumpkin two days ago, as well as roasting seeds with this recipe, and today I made some pies! I used a BIG pumpkin so I doubt it was a sugar pumpkin.

Things I did and/or recommend doing differently:

I cut the pumpkin in about half the size of chunks you called for, and cooked it in the oven at 400 until it was quite soft--it still took like 2 hours!

I didn't add any water, just filled the blender with pumpkin. It blended with a little more difficulty than otherwise, but I didn't have to do nearly as much straining.

I ended up with 14 cups of puree! WOW!

With the roasted seeds, I soaked them in salt water for a couple hours before roasting. I also used about half the amount of butter listed, and still thought they ended up a wee bit greasy. Maybe I just had a lot fewer seeds than you did!

That pie dough recipe is EXCELLENT--it's the easiest pie dough I've ever put together! I followed the pie recipe to a tee except I used 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar instead of white. I also didn't leave the oven door slightly open. It took about 20 minutes longer than called for before it was baked just right for me!

I'm totally trying your pumpkin bread recipe too. Thanks so much for this walkthrough!

Gretchen Fleener said...

Great to hear you got some good pies!! Yes, I don't know how my mom cooks hers in a half hour. But, glad you got it to work! At least you can pretty much stick it in the oven and ignore it for a while if you are around long enough! Mine was a huge pumpkin...I got 20 cups out of it! And, yes, that's the problem with that seed recipe...there is no measurement for how many seeds. I wish I had measured how many I had. Mine did end up a bit more buttery too. I suppose you could always start with 1 or 2 Tbsp and add more if they seem dry.

traci said...

I found your blog through Chelsea(
I'm going to TRY to do the whole homemade pumpkin pie, it looks good! I hope mine turns out okay :-S
Thanks for sharing!

Rollie said...

Wow... lots of folks weighing in on this! I, Gretchen’s mom, can say to you, being I've done this for 30+ years, it has never mattered what type of pumpkin we’ve had.

I do try to find ones that have a thick flesh, but they all have worked great. I think when we add the spices and sugar they taste great. Some folks say they've used squash even!

I get so many friends who say “You cook a REAL pumpkin!? It comes in a CAN!” I just tell them it’s easy! and it's fun to use my Gramma’s recipe!

willowsprite said...

Great blog (love the carve job, too!) I make my own baby food this way, and I always make sure I use a bit of the steam or boil water to help the pureeing process. That way you get back some of the nutrients lost.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love pumpkin pie and toasted pumpkin seeds, thanks for the recipe

genny_charet said...

This is such a cool blog! I've just linked to you from my food blog ( I found you because I googled the magazine picture frames and mirror that i just saw at Urban Outfitters (was trying to find a way to make them myself for creative Christmas presents!), and I came upon your post about it. Now that I've spent a little time perusing your site, I'm excited to have found this post (I was looking for ways to use extra pumpkins!), and totally want to make my own pom pom rug! Thanks so much--I'll be checking your site regularly!


Gretchen Fleener said...

Thanks for the link, Genevive! Your blog made my mouth water!! :-)

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