I just read that 25% of food is wasted in the US. That’s a horrible statistic but probably accurate. Ever since we brought our piggys to market, I have to dispose of the non-compostable food in the trash and I can see how much is left on plates. Some of the fault is mine as, after years of cooking for a small army, I habitually make too much. So it is a goal of mine to reduce tha amount of waste in my kitchen. It is immoral to waste food and will be something I address in my family’s New Year’s Mission Statement (more about that tomorrow).
Which brings me to pumpkins. This is the time of year to buy or harvest pumpkins. They are cheap, nutritious and abundant. They are also a versatile food, slipping easily into breads, muffins, pancakes, sauces, pies and soup. We had a terrible year for pumpkins and I was planning on buying some but earlier this week, I found a dozen or so beautiful little sugar pumpkins on my back porch, courtesy of my good friends, Barbara and Sheri.
Pumpkins store just like any winter squash and I could have put these upstairs in the spare bedroom where it is cool and dry, just right for long-term storage. But I know what would happen. I would want to make a pumpkin bread but doing so would involve baking and processing the pumpkin before I could even start the bread. I would probably just grab a can of pumpkin instead, promising myself that the next time I would cook the pumpkin. I would be lying.
Instead, I decided to process the pumpkins all at once and get them ready to use. I chose a time when the oven was already hot from cooking something else. It is a simple matter to poke 4 or 5 holes in each pumpkin with an ice pick and set them in a 350 degree oven for about 90 minutes or until they begins to collapse a bit. Be sure to set them on a cookie sheet as they will likely lose some juice. I was able to get 6 pumpkins in my oven. I turned off the oven just before I thought they were soft enough and let them finish in the residual heat. I left them alone until they had cooled considerably so they would be easier to handle. At this stage, you can get out your Squeezo to separate the skin and seeds from the flesh but I do this part by hand. I cut the stem end out with a sharp knife. Next, I cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings and set them aside. With a large spoon (get one with a sharp edge) I scoop out the flesh, scraping the skin to get as much as I can. The flesh goes into my food processor with some hot water. I process it for a minute or two. The trick is to get the pulp as smooth as possible. I scoop out the pulp into either zipper top plastic bags or mason jars. I am trying to get away from using plastic in my kitchen but this is one of those times where the bags work so well that it is hard to give the nasty little things up. You can fill each bag with two cups of pulp and freeze it flat. The thing is that it is hard to clean a bag that has held pumpkin and I generally have to toss it out which I just hate to do. So it will be mason jars from now on.
Last night, we took the girls to a concert at our church next door. I knew we would be ready for dinner when we returned home. I also knew it would be too late to start something then so I put a pot of pumpkin soup on to simmer before we left. Everybody loved the soup! The girls are actually heating some up this morning to take in thermoses for lunch. I hope they leave some for me.
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock. Homemade is best but you can use canned or even bullion if you are out of stock.
1 cup onion, chopped fine
4 cups pumpkin pulp
some fresh parsley
a couple of cloves of garlic
a pinch of thyme
1/2 cup cream You can use 1/2 and 1/2 or evaporated milk or double strength powdered milk if necessary.
Simmer this for about 30 minutes, then blend it with an immersion blender. You can use an egg beater or even just stir it well. Then bring it to a simmer again and enjoy. This is a cheap, quick, healthy meal and can be made entirely from storage food.