Thursday, January 19, 2012

And What To Do With All That Plenty... Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

This blog is intended to not only discuss gardening but to offer recipes and techniques for preserving your harvest.  Since it is January and miserably dismal outside I'll take this time to share a recipe that can be done with already preserved pumpkins.  While carving pumpkins are edible, they aren't very good to cook with, they can be cured and carved but I recommend Sugar Pie, Rouge Vif de'Tempes (Cinderella) or another eating variety of pumpkin for roasting.  Roasting and preserving directions also apply to any hard-rinded winter squash.

There are a few ways to keep pumpkins once they are harvested: one is to cure them.  If the skins of the pumpkin are undamaged (scarring is fine, but no fresh scrapes or cuts) you can cure it by letting it sit in a warm, dry area where it won't get damaged. If skins have fresh damage you will have to roast and process them immediately.  If you notice blemishes in the skin or mold growth your pumpkin isn't curing properly and needs to be processed into the freezer or canned immediately. Remove any areas that appear to have mold or spoilage.  Then follow the process for roasting.

If the skins toughen and the stems dry brown in about 10 days, your pumpkin has safely cured and will keep like this for several months.

Roasting:  You can roast your pumpkins directly after harvest, or cure them and roast them at a later date.  If you have a big harvest I can pretty much guarantee you will be sick of roasting pumpkins long before you are done, so cure as many as possible.  Curing pumpkins also increases their Vitamin A content.  Cut off any damaged areas of the fruit, cut it in half or quarters (depending on size) to fit in roasting pan.  Scrape out seeds and guts, discard guts; you can either add the seeds to your compost pile, dry them for planting next year, or roast them for eating.  Preheat your oven to about 350F.  Depending on what you intend to do with your pumpkin it may be worthwhile to butter or season the halves before roasting.  For pie, and other sweet making, I like to sprinkle the raw pumpkin with pumpkin pie spice.  Then roast in the oven for 1-2 hours or more, depending on the size of the pumpkin, until the meat is tender.  Let cool for half an hour, then scrape the meat away from the rind.  Use a blender or stick blender to puree the pumpkin meat until smooth.  Lastly, place puree in a colander lined with cheesecloth for 15-20 minutes to drain out excess water (this can be done later, such as after defrosting if you choose to freeze the puree).  The resulting puree can then be used right away in any pumpkin recipe, about two and a half cups is equivalent to a can of Libby pumpkin puree from the store; or it can be frozen for later use, generally in 3 or 4 cup containers.  I have never tried canning pumpkin because I don't have a pressure canner and have a healthy fear of botulism, but I'm sure it's possible.

So that is how to process pumpkins (and other winter squashes).  Here is a fabulously delicious recipe for your home grown pumpkin that my family will gobble up before it even cools.  I don't remember where the recipe came from so if someone knows my source please let me know so I can give credit where it is due.
Pumpkin muffin, served warm with butter is best.

Pumpkin Muffins - preheat oven to 350F
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 lg. eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, spice, baking soda, and cinnamon.  In separate bowl, mix puree, oil, eggs, and sugar until well blended.  Gently fold together wet and dry ingredients until well moistened.  (As with all muffins, stir gently or the muffins will become tough).  Scoop into muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake at 350F 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with butter.  Makes 1 dozen.

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