Fall means pumpkin recipes, but fresh pumpkin spoils so quickly! Learning how to freeze pumpkin so it stays fresh long past pumpkin season!
Fall temperatures will be here soon and with it comes all things pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin crepes, pumpkin roll and of course, pumpkin spice lattes are about to come into season in a very big way. Sweater weather is almost here ya’ll!
But what is a person to do with pumpkins bought on clearance or leftover pumpkin puree they don’t want to waste?
You learn how to freeze pumpkin. That’s what.
Fresh pumpkins do not have a long storage life It is hard to store them for any real length of time. Sure, you could leave them as is and hope they don’t go to waste too quickly, but that is a good way to find yourself with unnecessary food waste. This is true whether you have bought your pumpkins at the grocery store or have fresh pumpkins grown in your own garden. Preserving pumpkin, however, is the only way to ensure you can make good use of the pumpkin you have before it does become waste. After all, wasted food in any form is wasted money.
What Are the Benefits of Freezing Pumpkin?
Freezing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to preserve food. Food spoils or rots due to bacteria on their surfaces. The bacteria begins on the outside and as the outside rots, our microscopic buddies move into the inner part of the food causing it to rot from the inside out. Oxygen and light assist the bacteria making things go bad far quicker. Because most bacteria can not survive at lower temperatures and most freezers are mostly air tight and dark, frozen lasts much longer and in most cases retains flavor and texture best.
In this case, pumpkin can be preserved by using a deep freeze to freeze it, by dehydrating it or by putting it into jars. By far, the simplest and most effective method to preserve pumpkin is to freeze it. It not only takes the least amount of time, but again, will help your pumpkin to retain most of its flavor. Dehydration and canning can both change the flavor and the texture of the fruit.
How Long Can You Keep Frozen Pumpkin?
Like anything in your freezer, fresh pumpkin puree or cooked pumpkin chunks will still have a shelf life. The good news is that the shelf life will be significantly extended provided you take the time to preserve it correctly. Simply tossing the pumpkin in the freezer is not the way to do it and will eventually lead to waste.
With proper processing though by being roasted first then using freezer-safe containers, frozen pumpkin will keep in the freezer for 9-12 months. You will know you are reaching the end of its life if you begin to see ice crystals, freezer burn, or other signs it is degrading. If you see these signs, be sure to use it in your favorite pumpkin recipes immediately.
What Tools Will I Need to Freeze Pumpkin?
Freezing pumpkin does not require a lot of kitchen tools. You most likely already have everything you need! That’s the beauty of most food preservation methods. Most don’t require much over “normal” items.
The tools you need to freeze pumpkin are:
If you do not want to freeze your pumpkin whole in a Ziploc bag, the next best way is to use an ice cube tray. This method allows you to freeze individual portions of pumpkin. Once the individual squares of pumpkin are frozen, store them in plastic bags or in airtight containers.
How to Roast a Pumpkin
Before the pumpkin can be safely frozen, it must be prepared and roasted. You can do this in a few easy steps . You’ll need to cut the top of the pumpkin off and quarter it. Once that is done, remove the seeds and strings using a large spoon or ice cream scoop. Place the quarters face down on a baking sheet and roast at 350°F until the meat of the pumpkin is soft.
This can take as many as 2.5 hours to do depending on your oven and your pumpkin. It’s best to begin checking how soft it is at around one hour. If it is not soft at an hour, continue roasting and check it every 30 minutes.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Puree?
Yes! When you roast your pumpkin, it will not come out in a true puree. It will be very soft, but rather chunky in small pieces. However, it is very simple to take the extra step and make your own pumpkin puree .All you need to do is use a stick blender or potato masher on the pumpkin flesh after you have removed it from its shells. Once it is pureed, follow the same simple steps to freeze the way you would if you had not pureed it.
Why Make Your Own Homemade Pumpkin Puree?
There are a lot of reasons to make your own pumpkin puree but three that really stick out for me. First, canned pumpkin is not actually pumpkin. It is typically butternut squash; a winter squash. This means that those who have always used the canned stuff have never tasted real pumpkin puree and do not know how amazing their pumpkin puree recipes will taste with fresh pumpkin.
Secondly, canned pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling contains less nutrition than fresh pumpkin does. This happens as a byproduct of the canning process. Finally, canned pureed pumpkin is far more expensive per ounce than fresh pumpkins. Pricing is even more important now because with rising costs, cans will be more expensive than they were last year.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Chunks?
Yes. You do not need to pure the pumpkin to freeze it. If you would prefer to freeze pumpkin chunks instead, the process is pretty close to the same. The difference is that instead of roasting the pumpkin as a whole, you will need to cut the pumpkin into chunks, remove them from their shell and then roast in a single layer on your baking sheet. From there you would follow the same freezing instructions.
Can Pumpkin Be Canned at Home?
Yes pumpkin can be canned at home provided you do it properly. Pumpkin must be canned in a pressure canner and not in a water bath canner. To pressure can pumpkin, leave 1″ headspace in your jars. Process quart size jars at 15 lb PSI for 90 minutes and quart sized jars at 15lb PSI for 55 minutes.
A word of caution about canning pumpkin: Pumpkin puree is not safe to can. You can only safely can pumpkin chunks as puree is too thick for heat to safely penetrate to the center on. If you need to preserve pumpkin puree, the only safe methods are freezing and dehydrating it into pumpkin leather.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Seeds?
Roasted pumpkin seeds make an amazing snack, but what if you end up with more than you can eat, pop them in the freezer to keep them from going to waste! Roast and season the pumpkin seeds first and allow them to fully cool. Then, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Once frozen, place them into a freezer bag and pop into the freezer. For longer freezer storage, you can use a Foodsaver to help keep them fresh even longer.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Pie?
Yes. Pumpkin pie freezes very well. Honestly most pumpkin desserts do. To freeze them, ensure they are fully cooled then cover them in two layers of plastic wrap. Wrap the entire dish with aluminum foil and freeze. It is best to freeze pumpkin desserts flat so they do not shift and cause your recipe to become lopsided.
How to Thaw Frozen Pumpkin
Thawing pumpkin is simple to do. You can place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw it slowly or you can microwave it in 30-second increments. Both methods are great options depending on what you are thawing. For instance, if you are thawing a whole pumpkin pie, it is best to thaw it in the fridge. However, if you’re thawing a cup of pumpkin puree, the microwave will work just fine.
How to Freeze Pumpkin
- Large Spoon
- Wash and Dry The Outside of the Pumpkin. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut pumpkin open then into halves.1 Pumpkin, Sharp Knife
- Remove seeds and strings. Add 1/2" water and place pumpkin halves face down. Roast until fork tender – as much as 2.5 hours. Begin checking for tenderness at one hour.Baking Sheet
- Remove from oven and flip into a large bowl. Use a spoon to remove any bits left in the shell.Mixing Bowl
- Allow to cool fully. Puree if you would like. Otherwise, place in a freezer bag and freeze flat.