Maggies 2015 Jac-O-Lantern - Key - © Maggie Js

Don’t Toss that Hallowe’en Pumpkin!

It pains me to see it…. Every year, on the garbage day after Hallowe’en, hundreds of perfectly good pumpkins set out at the curb to be taken away as trash. What a waste! Did you know that, with a little elbow grease and some spare time, you could make that Jack-O-Lantern into a year’s worth of pies?

Maggie's 2015 Jac-O-Lantern - © Maggie J's.caFrightening and handsome all at the same time…
And destined for another, culinary incarnation
in a classic Short Pastry Crust!

Why pay as much as $3 a can for commercially-packed Pumpkin Purée from the supermarket for your next pie when you could recycle your Hallowe’en pumpkin into a golden horde of luscious goodness for pennies a pastry!

My 2015 Jack-O-Lantern weighed in at a respectable 10 kg (22 lb.) and I started by conserving the bits I carved out for the mouth, eyes and nose. The rest of the thing got systematically slices up the next day and cooked down over a steaming pot of water. It took five batches in the steamer to cook it all down and, when it was all done, and buzzed up with an immersion blender into a beautiful purée, it came in at about 6 L (12 cups). That’s enough for half a dozen large pumpkin pies!

The total cost?

Even though the Pumpkin cost $5 at the supermarket (which I think is crazy), cooking down your Jack-O factors out to about $0.42 per can, or well under a dollar a pie! And, if you’ve never used fresh pumpkin in a pie (or a Pumpkin Bread recipe) you’ll be amazed at how much more fruity and flavourful the real deal is compared to the canned stuff! You could pay $4 or $5 for a Holiday Feast Pumpkin Pie at a store – or make your own for a total cost of about $1.75!

Now that I have your wallet’s attention…

How to do it…

First, wash the exterior of the pumpkin so that no residual pumpkin patch dirt can get into the process.

Then. Slice the thing longitudinally (top-to-bottom) along the natural seam lines between the sections’ of the thing. That will produce curved slices the shape of barrel staves. Run a knife blade down the inside of the big slice to remove any remaining furry stuff and then use long peeling strokes to remove a thin layer of the outer skin. Don’t waste too much good Pumpkin flesh by hacking off big pieces!

I use a thin-bladed knife, one usually used for boning and trimming meat, which is easy to turn along the curves of the Pumpkin pieces. You can try a regular vegetable peeler for removing the outer skin, but make sure you get enough of it; the dark orange stuff is definitely unpalatable!

The same thin-bladed knife can use used to cube the pumpkin flesh into 1 in. (2.5 cm) by .5 in. (1 cm) slices for cooking. You don’t have to be too fussy with these measurements. The stuff is all going to be cooked down and whizzed in a blender later, anyway.

Make sure to put the skins and inside trimmings in the compost or the Green Bin!

Putting the heat on…

I use a vintage stainless steel pasta cooking pot to cook down my pumpkin.

The deep pasta insert with the colander bottom is perfect for steaming large quantities of pumpkin at a time. I fill the pot so that water just comes up through the colander holes of the pasta insert and set it on a large stove burner covered to come to the boil. Once the steam starts to appear from under the lid, put in a full load of Pumpkin – in the case of my pot, about 8 cups. That takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook, depending on how thick your slices are. Once fully cooked (fork-tender all the way through) the cubs will look mushy and have a darker orange-yellow colour than the raw cubes did. Remove the pasta insert from the put holding it over the pot to drain the pumpkin

In a large sauce pan or a steel bowl, purée the cooked pumpkin with a an immersion blender, or run it through a bar blender or a food process or in batches until it is smooth and uniform.

Bag it in freezer bags in 2 cup or 4 cup (0.5 L or 1 L) servings’ and freeze as you would Tomato Sauce, Stock or any other liquid. Take it out anytime to use in any recipe, leaving a few hours to thaw in the fridge or put it right into the microwave and defrost according to the mic’s directions.

Do your part for Recycling and Greening – and treat yourself to a great fresh Pumpkin pie!

~ Maggie J.