Pumpkin- Preserving the Harvest

Pumpkins are appearing everywhere in anticipation of Halloween and while Jack-o-Lanterns are an attractive use, they are definitely not the only use for this deep orange vegetable. Once we get past the Holiday, pumpkins will get very inexpensive--my local market had a blow-out sale last year-- 10 pounds for $1.00!

Nutritional Value of Pumpkins:
Pumpkins like most squash, are very nutritious and low in calories(until we add the butter!). They are also high in trace minerals and many vitamins. Pumpkins are considered an excellent Anti-Inflammatory Food that may help some people who are prone to joint stiffness.

Keep Pumpkins Fresh:
Pumpkins should be fully colored with a fairly hard rind. Green pumpkins do not store well. Wash the fruits in warm, soapy water to remove any traces of soil that may be adhering to them. Then rinse them in a diluted household disinfectant solution. For this purpose a five to ten percent chlorine bleach solution works fine (one part bleach to ten parts water). This rinse will destroy the fungi and bacteria, which are the prime agents of spoilage. Pumpkins will last a long time in root-cellar-like storage conditions. Ideal storage conditions include dark or near dark, low humidity, 45-60 degrees. Avoid placing pumpkins directly on hard surfaces like cement--instead lay down a couple of layers of cardboard. The essential thing is to arrange a situation that will provide good air circulation. Under these conditions, pumpkins can last up to 6 months.

Check on your pumpkins every week or two and promptly use up any pumpkins that show signs of softening or mold. Cut away the bad parts and use the rest in your favorite recipe.

Eating Pumpkin:
The tender leaves and stems, flowers, fruit and seeds of pumpkin can all be eaten.

Leaves should be washed in clean water before cooking. Remove any tough stems. Place leaves in boiling water, cover and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, until just tender. Eating green leaves with coconut cream or other fats helps the body to use the Vitamin A in the leaves. Pan-frying is also a good way to prepare pumpkin leaves. Heat a little cooking oil in a pot and add chopped garlic or ginger. Add cut up leaves, cover and cook for about ten minutes, shaking the pot often.

To cook the tips of the vines, scrape or peel off the hairy skin first. Boil in water or coconut cream until just tender, as for the leaves. The tips then can be made into a salad. Cool the cooked tips, chop them and flavor with lemon juice.

Before cooking pumpkin flowers, the centers of the flowers must be pulled out. These flowers are delicious fried in a little butter or cooking oil, or dipped into batter and then fried. They can also be added to fish and meat dishes.

Pumpkin fruit can be baked, steamed, boiled or fried. It is delicious served as a vegetable or made into tasty curries, soups or desserts. Pumpkin has the best flavor when cooked in the skin. The skin of very young pumpkin can be eaten, but it is best to peel the skin off older ones.

Visit Endless Simmer for 100 ways to Cook a Pumpkin!

Drying Pumpkin:
Split the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Remove the skin and cut the fruit into thin slices. Spread on a tray and dry in the oven(Start at 250 degrees for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150 degrees) until dry and brittle. This will take 6-8 hours. Pumpkin needs to be dried quickly before it spoils.

Dried pumpkin can be powdered in a food processor and added to desserts and soups for extra taste and nutrition.

Freezing Pumpkin:
Freezing is the safest method to preserve pumpkin(other than fresh in the root-cellar.) Wash the pumpkin and cut it into pieces. Remove seeds, but do not peel. Cook until soft by boiling, steaming or baking. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from the skin and mash it well. Pack, seal and freeze immediately. Mashed pumpkin may be used later for baby foods, soups and breads.

Canning Pumpkin:
Home canning is not recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash. Pumpkin cubes in water may be safely canned using a Pressure Canner.

Pumpkin Butter

3 pounds of pre-baked pumpkin
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 60-90 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

Transfer to sterile containers and chill in the refrigerator until serving. If you use wide mouth jars, you can freeze this recipe in jars and thaw in the refrigerator as needed. Makes about 4 half pints. This recipe is not safe for home canning--refrigerate or freeze only.

Your Fancy Pantry
Many canning recipes that include pumpkin as a portion of the total ingredients are perfectly safe. Pumpkin should never exceed more than one third of the total recipe by weight.

Pumpkin Pie Pickles
The pickles taste like crunchy cold pumpkin pie–and are a yummy alternative to the ultra-sweet gift basket offerings you usually see.

1 5 pound pie pumpkin (avoid the monster pumpkins used for carving–too stringy)
kosher salt (do NOT use iodized table salt)
2 cups sugar plus 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar plus 1 1/2 cups vinegar (may use a mix of white and apple cider)
1 Tbs whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon plus 4 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbs whole allspice

Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut into 1 inch cubes. Put in a glass bowl, pour water over to cover and add 4 tablespoons kosher salt for each quart of water. Leave the pumpkin overnight or for at least 5 hours.

Next day, drain the pumpkin cubes and rinse them well. Rinse the bowl well and put the pumpkin back into the bowl. In a medium pan, combine 1 quart water, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of vinegar, 1 Tbs whole cloves, 1 stick cinnamon and 1 Tbs allspice. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. This is a syrup so be careful that it doesn’t boil over or you’ll have a mess on your stove.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup over the drained, rinsed pumpkin.
Let stand in a cool place overnight (refrigerator is fine, but bring to room temp prior to packing into jars)

Remove the pumpkin cubes from the syrup and distribute the cubes among your sterilized canning jars, filling the jars up to within 1 inch of the rim with pumpkin cubes. Break up the remaining cinnamon sticks and slide one piece down into each jar with the pumpkin.

Pour the syrup into a saucepan and add 1 1/2 more cups of sugar and 1 1/2 more cups of vinegar. Bring back to a boil.

Remove the syrup from the heat and ladle into the jars over the pumpkin cubes. Make sure the cloves and allspice are evenly distributed among the jars. Fill jars to within 1/2 inch of the top.Wipe the rims carefully with a damp lint-free towel and add one little pinch of powdered alum(optional) to each jar.

Before placing lids on jars, wipe the rubber-coated outside perimeter free of water and place them squarely on the rims. Screw on the bands, firmly, but not too tight. Place the jars back into the boiling hot water bath and process for ten minutes.

After processing, remove the jars and place on a tea towel to cool. As they cool, the lids should snap down with an audible “pop.” This means the jar is sealed properly. If any of your lids do not pop down (or if you can still push the lid down) you can either re-process, or just put the jar in the fridge after it’s cool and use the pumpkin within 10 days.
Leave the properly sealed jars in a cool place for at least 1 week before eating.

Makes 5-6 Pints

Pumpkin Jam
2 cups Pumpkin puree (cooked), unsweetened
2 cups sugar
2 cups Water
1Tsp Ground cinnamon
A pinch ground cloves (optional)
2 Tsp Vanilla extract
Zest of 2 Lemons or of 1 orange
1/4 cup Lemon juice
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier, Rum or Cointreau (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a stock pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 45-90 minutes until thick and translucent. Pour into clean half pint jars, apply lids, process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Marmalade
16 cups diced sugar pumpkin (about 5 lbs)
3 lemons, peeled
1 large orange, peeled
2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
8 cups white sugar
1 cup water
¼ cup apple juice

Place pumpkin in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Slice citrus very thin, removing seeds. Add with sugar to pumpkin. Stir and refrigerate overnight. The next day, place over medium heat and add water. Simmer uncovered 2 ½ hours or until thick. Stir in apple juice. Pour into clean half pint or pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace, apply lids, process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pancake Syrup

1 cup of pre-baked pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp real maple extract

Bring ingredients to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until used(up to 3 months- heat in the microwave just prior to using.) or Pour into clean half pint or pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace, apply lids, process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup from Cook Like a Champion
This is a copy of the syrup used in lattes. Very tasty and seasonal!

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin purée

-In a small pot over medium heat, dissolve sugar in water.
-Once sugar is dissolved, add remaining ingredients. Allow to cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not boil.
-Strain mixture using cheesecloth or a tea towel.
-Pour into two (8-10 ounce) bottles and store in the refrigerator. (This will remain perfectly safe for a long time without refrigeration, so it makes a great gift!)
-To make a pumpkin spice latte, simply add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of syrup for each shot of espresso.
-For an iced latte, stir together syrup and espresso before adding desired amount of cold milk.
-For a hot latte, add frothed milk and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds(aka Pepitas)

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
1-2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt and possibly other seasonings, like pepper, paprika, or garlic
bowl or colander
baking sheet

  1. Scoop the seeds from a pumpkin.
  2. Place the seeds in a colander or a bowl and run cold water over them to remove all of the strings and pulp.
  3. Pat the seeds dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel.
  4. Preheat the oven to 275-300°F.
  5. If you are using butter, melt it. Toss the seeds, butter or oil, and seasonings together.
  6. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
  7. Bake the pumpkin seeds until they are golden brown, turning them occasionally (20-30 minutes)
  8. Lay the seeds out onto a paper towel. Enjoy!
Experiment with your spice addition! Some popular combinations include: Garlic, jalapeno, & lemon pepper.