Recycle those Pumpkins!

Every year, our CSA grows pumpkins. Big orange Jack-O-Lanterns, long slim pie-pumpkins, small tender “sugar pumpkins” that I sometimes eat like an acorn squash and sometimes make into pies.  But our favorite thing to do with them is carve: we love to carve Jack-O-Lanterns.

Greg and I carved our first Jack-O-Lantern a few days after we were married. We put a candle in and waited for the Trick-or-Treaters.  Of which we had well over 100.  It was our first Halloween in our home, and the first of many that we would run out of candy.  When we ran out of candy, I blew out the candle and brought the pumpkin into the kitchen, so it wouldn’t end up smashed in the street by some late coming trickster enraged by our not having any more treats.  The next morning I took it out to the trash thinking, “What a waste, really.”

The next year, the day after Halloween, my neighbor came and asked if he could have our carved pumpkins – a friend of his leaves them in his yard for the deer. I said that was fine and gave them away.  That was how we disposed of the pumpkins for a few years.

Then it occurred to me that Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are edible, so why not make pumpkin muffins out of them, or custard, or pie? So I tested it out.  They really don’t have as much taste as a pie-pumpkin, and they are a little more fibrous.  However, they aren’t tasteless, and some over-baking and a blender can take care of the fiber issue.

So, in this day of recycling as much as we can, I say RECYCLE YOUR JACK-O-LANTERNS! Here’s how:

  1. Don’t carve your pumpkin until Halloween afternoon. This way, there isn’t much time for mold or bacteria to begin to grow.
  2. Use an unscented candle to light the face.
  3. When you bring it in after trick-or-treating, cut it in half and wash it out with hot water.
  4. Pat it dry and wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.
  5. The next day, put the pumpkin, cut side down on a baking sheet (or two) and put it in a 350 F oven for about 2 hours, until it is really mushy.
  6. Let it cool and then scrape the flesh from the skin.   I use a grapefruit spoon for this – the serrated edge is really helpful.
  7. Puree it in a blender. I usually combine the pumpkin with equal parts of butternut squash – it helps with the color and improves the flavor.
  8. I store this in plastic bags in the freezer. Measure by 1 cup into a plastic bag. Lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet in the freezer. I leave it for about four hours. These bags cane be stacked in the freezer, and when you need 1 cup of pumpkin for muffins, or two cu0ps for soup, you can just grab what you need and defrost it.

These bags keep in the freezer for a year.

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