October 24, 2016

How to Turn Free Pumpkins into Pumpkin Puree


Have you noticed that pumpkins are expensive during October and suddenly worthless on November first?

How to make nearly-free pumpkin puree.

I won't pay that ridiculous price in October, but as soon as the calendar changes to November I can pick them up very cheaply and sometimes even for free. I don't turn them into Jack-O-Lanterns; I turn them into pumpkin puree and chicken feed.

The big box store in town always discounts their pumpkins in November and I try to pick up a couple of those at half price or less. One year they were on sale for fifty cents each near the middle of the month, so I bought a couple more. I heard that eventually they gave pumpkins away, but I wasn't in town that day.


I've even scored a few free pumpkins for the asking at businesses that decorate with straw bales and pumpkins. It never hurts to ask. (If you live in a colder climate than I do, this might not work for you. Once they've frozen, they're only good for chicken feed. But check them out anyway: if the pumpkin display was in a sheltered spot, they might have survived the cold temperatures.)

A fall display in a parking lot.

Most of the pumpkins are still in very good shape and I turn them into pumpkin puree that goes in the freezer and eventually becomes pumpkin pie and other goodies. The ones that are past the point of human consumption go to the chickens. My hens enjoy pecking at the flesh until all that's left is the hard, thin shell.

How to make nearly-free pumpkin puree

To process a pumpkin, start by cutting off the top and removing the seeds as though you're carving a jack-o-lantern. The "top hat" of the pumpkin, the seeds and as many of the strings as you can scrape off the inside flesh of the pumpkin (I use a grapefruit spoon) make great chicken feed.

Sometimes you'll find sprouted pumpkin seeds inside.

Sometimes I'll cut into a pumpkin and find that the seeds have already sprouted inside. I've realized that pumpkin seeds could be sprouted (you know, on purpose!) and fed to the chickens as "green feed." Lightbulb moment! I haven't done it yet though...

Cut the rest of the pumpkin into large pieces and arrange in a roasting pan with a little water. Bake in a 325°F oven until the pumpkin meat is soft when you poke it with a fork. Remove from the oven and set the pan aside until the pumpkin is cool, then just peel the rind off. (You'll either need a couple of roasting pans, or do this in several shifts. There's a lot of pumpkin to be roasted!)

Roast the pumpkin at 325°F until very soft.

Cut the flesh into cubes and puree in the food processor. Since these aren't pie pumpkins, they usually have more water than commercially-canned pumpkin puree. If it's a really watery pumpkin I hang it in muslin for awhile to let some of the moisture drain out.

Pumpkin puree is too dense to can safely at home, even in a pressure cooker. However, it can be canned in chunks if you prefer. You can find directions to pressure-can pumpkin chunks here.

Puree the cooked pumpkin in your food processor.

Check your favorite recipes to see the amounts you use the most, and package accordingly. I package mine in several sizes according to use: 3 3/4 cups equals a large can of pumpkin puree for pie-making; 2 cups makes pumpkin bread. I package several one-cup portions too for other uses, including my Holiday Spice soap.

Label the bags and store in the freezer.

Do you want more ideas of what to make with homemade pumpkin puree? Check out my Pinterest board All Things Pumpkin.





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18 comments:

  1. Each year I grow somewhere near 10 zillion pumpkins to do EXACTLY this with! I often dehydrate mine. I'll be posting on how I do that soon! But, seriously. There is NOTHING better than homemade pumpkin puree. It's like gold and it's SO easy to do!

    Tammy
    www.simplypreparing.com

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    1. I wish I had the space to grow our own pumpkins. You're very fortunate, Tammy.

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  2. as we were driving down the street the other day, I saw carved pumpkins on people's porches. I was wondering what all could be done with the inside if the pumpkin. Freezing it is a very good idea. I've heard that pumpkin is really good for you. I would like to start incorporating it in our meals more.

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    1. Pumpkin is very good for you, Amanda. It's very versatile too and can be eaten in many forms. Check out my Pinterest board in the post for some ideas. :-)

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  3. Yum. Just in time. I got two pumpkins in my Green Bean delivery!

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  4. I puree and freeze pumpkin (and for the last couple of years, Buckskin squash, which tastes just like pumpkin) every year, but I thought if they weren't "pie" pumpkins, they weren't good to use for pie! Is there a difference in taste?
    Thanks and Blessings!

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    1. That's an excellent question, Angie. Pie pumpkins are smaller and have thicker flesh (more puree for their size). They are usually less stringy. If you have room to grow your own, they are the best choice for pies. However, pumpkin vines take up a lot of real estate and not everyone has the space to grow them. If you can find them at a good price at the store, I'd choose them over the larger pumpkins. But if you can pick up several pumpkins for free or nearly free, and they are field pumpkins instead of pie pumpkins, do it - they still make good puree for pies and other dishes. Add some extra spice when you bake your desserts if you wish. (And chickens aren't picky, so if you have hens and are giving them the freebies, they'll be just as happy with a regular pumpkin.) Thank you for asking!

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  5. This reminds me of a video my husband showed me the other day. There is a big machine that some commercial farmers evidently use to get rid of pumpkins that were "too ugly" to sell to stores. Basically it just shreds it to pieces and spews it back out. Some save the seeds. But still. My inner frugal person was yelling, "No! It's so wasteful! Sell the seeds! Use it as chicken food! Anything!" lol

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    1. Alicia, doesn't it just physically HURT to see things like that? Hopefully they composted it on a grand scale, or plowed it back into the field or something so it wasn't a total waste.

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  6. And then you can make them into delicious things like pumpkin cheesecake :)

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    1. Absolutely, Katharine! Yum!

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  7. Good morning! Just a little note to let you know that this post has been *FEATURED* today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays (at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth) on our special pumpkin edition. Thank you for sharing with us! :)

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    1. Thank you for including me in this collection, JES!

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  8. I just made pumpkin soup recently and it's great. I thought it was really easy to use the pumpkin- wish I'd done it years before! Thanks for linking up at #SustainableSundays!

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    1. It is easy, isn't it, Danielle? I'm glad you tried it. :-)

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  9. I just did this myself! I store some of mine in frozen ice cubes (popped out of the trays once frozen and stored in a bag in freezer) for using in smooties or for subbing in baking- since ice cubes are usually 2 Tabelspoons. Thanks for posting at Country Fair Blog Party!

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    1. Freezing them in ice cube trays is brilliant, Jan!

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