Preserving Pie Pumpkins0
One of the few (possibly the only) crop I grew solely for our family this year was pie pumpkins. I only used one bed and ended up with about a dozen pumpkins. The pumpkins have been sitting around the house for a couple of weeks now, just waiting to be processed. After doing a little research (bless you, Google) and talking to a friend (bless you, Carrie) I decided to process our pumpkins using a combination of methods. I’m roasting my pumpkins in the oven and then dehydrating them to be stored in powder form. Here’s how…
Step 1: Roast the Pie Pumpkins
Dehead the pumpkin. (For those of you who don’t live with an 8-year-old boy or like to pretend you’re Eowyn, that just means “cut the top off.”)
Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy mess. The goal is to get rid of as much stringiness as possible. If you set the seeds aside you can roast them alongside the pumpkin!
Cut the pumpkin into quarters by first cutting it in half and then halving the halves.
Place the pumpkin pieces on a cookie sheet with the skin side up. This will help to retain moisture as the pumpkin pieces roast.
Roast in the oven at 350* for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin pieces are fork-tender. They will look like this.
Step 2: Puree the Roasted Pumpkin
When the pumpkins are done roasting the skin will be soft and somewhat withered. Allow the pumpkin to cool enough that you can handle it without being burned and then peel away the skin. Don’t be impatient or you’ll burn yourself! I used both a knife and my bear hands to remove the skin. It was an easy process.
The next step is to place chunks of the roasted pumpkin into a blender or food processor. After some experimenting I found that I needed to add about 1 tablespoon of water to each batch to obtain a smooth consistency.
Since I plan to dehydrate my puree, a little extra water is no big deal. If however you are planning to freeze your puree, be careful not to make it too runny. If needed, you can remove excess moisture by placing a cheesecloth in a colander and letting the puree drain.
Also here’s where our freezing friends get off the train: Carefully scoop your puree into freezer-safe bags. Seal all but a small corner of the bag then lay it on the counter to smooth out the puree into a flat layer and push out excess air. Seal her up, label that puppy and stick it in the freezer for up to six months.
Step 3: Dehydrate the Puree
For those of you riding this train all the way into the station, it’s time to dehydrate your pumpkin puree.
Spread the puree out evenly onto a tray of your dehydrator and dehydrate for about 12 hours. I tried using both the mesh liner and the solid liner that came with my dehydrator. The mesh liner was a disaster – there was no way to get all of the dried pumpkin off it and the small bits I did retrieve accounted for a teeny portion of the entire tray. Boo. The solid liner, however, worked brilliantly.
Dehydrating in the Oven
Unfortunately I only have one solid liner which means I can only dehydrate a small amount of puree at a time (about 1 pumpkin). As an alternative I attempted to dehydrate puree in the oven. It worked very well! Here’s how: Lay a Silpat baking sheet (or parchment paper) onto a cookie sheet. Next spread an even layer of puree onto the Silpat and ‘bake’ at 170* for 5-6 hours. Mine dehydrated for 6 hours (I was working in the garden and forgot about it) and was slightly on the burned side, though still usable. If I dehydrate this way again I’ll aim for closer to 5 hours.
Once the puree has fully dehydrated it should look and feel like a thin crispy wafer. Peel away and place the pieces into your blender. Then blend away until your crispy wafers are pulverized into tiny little bits (powder is the goal). Here’s what mine looks like…
Store your dehydrated pumpkin away from heat and light in an air-tight container. According to the food preservation section of About.com you can store dehydrated pumpkin this way indefinitely. In addition to a longer shelf-life, dehydrated pumpkin takes up much less storage space then several freezer bags of puree. Also when if we have a power outage this winter I’ll have one less thing to worry about moving to a friend’s freezer while I wait for the power to return.
How do you cook with dehydrated pumpkin?
Does the idea of dehydrated pumpkin sound unappealing? I get it. But you can use dehydrated pumpkin for all of the same recipes as pumpkin puree: Pie, cookies, bread, cheesecake, pancakes, ice cream and smoothies. I’m looking forward to trying this one: Spicy pumpkin hummus. Yummy!
Here’s how it works. For every ½ cup of dehydrated pumpkin you should add 2 cups of boiling water. Stir the mixture up well and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes. This will enable it to fully rehydrate and also to cool. The mixture should be completely cool before you use it in your baking.
Most of my dehydrating information came from Dehydrate 2 Store, which also provides a video tutorial for creating a pumpkin pie from dehydrated pumpkin.