Whether you’ve grown a crop of pumpkins this year, or simply bought some for decoration (like me!) you may wonder how to preserve pumpkin for eating.
There are tons of great ways to get a second, or even third life out of those pumpkins!
You may be sick of pumpkin-spiced coffee creamer – I mean, I can never get enough – but Fall is all about embracing the seasonal squashes, colors and flavors that usher in the cold weather and hoodies.
The history of preserving pumpkin for eating
When I want to find preservation techniques, I also go back to historical documents. Our ancestors did not have refrigerators or grocery stores, so they had to be creative in how they preserved their food.
It is thought that the first pumpkin was domesticated over 7,500 years ago in Mexico.
The first American pumpkin recipe comes from John Josselyn’s “New England’s Rarities Discovered”, published in the early 1670’s.
He speaks of an “ancient New-England standing dish” where they would dice the flesh of pumpkins and stew them over a gentle fire for an entire day before adding butter, a little vinegar and spices like ginger. It was to be served aside “fish or flesh”.
(Not a preservation method, but a really interesting recipe, none-the-less!)
When European settlers arrived in the Americas, they found Native Americans growing pumpkins, watermelon, musk melon and other squashes among their corn stalks and tobacco.
How to Preserve Pumpkin
In the olden days, pumpkins would be cut in half, the seeds removed, and the rest cut into thin rings that would be threaded through a string or pole and hung above the mantle or in the rafters to cure.
I haven’t personally tried this yet, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work in a dry area of the house.
Pumpkin can be canned, but only in cubes. Puree can be canned by commercial units that reach upwards of 240 degrees Fahrenheit, but our home-canners won’t do the trick. To can pumpkin:
- Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and internal pulp, leaving just the flesh
- Slice in 1 in. thick rings, peel the outside husk and cut into 1 in. chunks
- Boil pumpkin cubes for 2 minutes before transferring to sterilized jars
- Pour boiling water from the pot over the cubes to cover
- Secure lids and jars
- Process in a pressure cooker at 10 psi (55 min for pints, 90 minutes for quarts)
If you have enough freezer space, and not a lot of time, freezing pumpkin puree is the easiest option. Simply cut the pumpkin in half, removing the seeds, rub the inside halves with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes, depending on size of your pumpkin.
Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender. If your pumpkin lacks a lot of natural water content, and is difficult to blend, add enough water to assist, and then simmer off any excess water in a pot. Allow to cool. You can add pumpkin pie spice at the stage if you want, to taste, depending on how you plan to use the puree when you’re finished. Put in freezer bags, removing excess air and squishing the puree out flat.