Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thanksgiving in Storage

Some years the seasons don't unfold exactly as expected. You'll get a cold snap when you should be planting seeds or perhaps you may enjoy warm evenings well into fall that will continue to ripen your straggler tomatoes. Every year is different, and some years crops don't yield as well, as a result.

Last spring brought us cool temperatures well into the spring planting season. Fate had it that I forgot to plant my pumpkin seeds, and consequently they went into the ground a month or so late. Gardeners I spoke with on the subject, confirmed my suspicion that it probably didn't matter that I was late, since the weather hadn't been cooperating anyway. So I didn't fret. Even as I watched the flowers begin blooming late, the pumpkins growing at an aggravatingly slow pace, and eventually the vines fail around harvest time. As the threat of frost crept into the forecast, I rescued my pumpkins, even while they were naturally separating themselves from their earthly umbilical cords, and despite the fact that one of them had failed to ripen entirely.

As you see it pictured here, you see that it still retains a mark of late ripening. But from the field it was plucked nearly half green. I know that pumpkins and winter squashes will store through the better part of the winter, if cleaned well and given a cool, dark location. What I was unsure of was whether I could encourage further ripening.

After a thorough cleaning with vinegar, I set both pumpkins near a window receiving indirect light, in an unheated room. I checked occasionally to ensure they were resisting decay. By early February, I was satisfied at the state of ripeness and decided it was time to, at long last, prepare pumpkin pulp.

I grew up loathing pumpkin pie, until my mother started making pumpkin pies from the pumpkins she grew in her garden. Pumpkin pulp in a can is shameful. I'm sorry, but it just is. If there are no fresh pumpkins, I'll pass on pumpkin pie, thank you very much.

Here is the magical conversion from vine to pie pulp (and, yes, pumpkin pulp can be used to make many other wonderful recipes, as well):
  1. Split pumpkins in half -- Organic Sweet Pie Pumpkins are best
  2. Scoop out seeds and spongy flesh -- I find an ice cream scoop works really well
  3. Place each half of a pumpkin, cut-side down on a baking sheet
  4. Roast in a 375° F oven for about 45 minutes, or until tender -- use a fork to check for tenderness
  5. Let cool, cut-side up, until easily handled
  6. Scoop flesh from skin and process in a food mill, food processor, or blender.
  7. If not using right away, store in measured quantities in tightly sealed bags in the freezer. You want to make sure you remove as much air as possible from the bags for long term storage. It further helps to record the date, quantity, and type of pumpkin used on the freezer bag.

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At February 16, 2007 2:25 PM, Blogger OMM said...

Oh please do not throw anything rotten at me for using canned pumpkin in my muffins!
This is our first year to live somewhere that we can plant & still be here to see the fruits of our labor. I'm really excited because last fall my daughter said she wanted to cover the whole side of our house in a pumpkin garden. Voila! Wish granted, my child!
Nonetheless, we are huge fans of allll things pumpkin.

At February 16, 2007 3:32 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Nah, I won't be tossing any rotten pumpkin shells at you. I'm probably just really sensitive to the difference. I think my mother was shocked that I went from hating pumpkin pie to loving it that fast. Oh, FYI, you can also make pumpkin recipes with winter squash.

I'm so glad your daughter gets to watch her very own pumpkin patch grow!


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