Today is the 6th day of November. Over the past few days, I’ve been seeing something that really bothers me. Most of you are probably seeing it as well, but may not have the same feelings about it, probably because you didn’t have the same experiences I did*…and because this country is so wealthy (by world standards) and complacent about things that we don’t see it as “waste”
But it just isn’t so.
Most pumpkins are used as doorstep decorations for a week or two, then tossed into the trash. And worse still, rarely are the seeds saved for their food value when the pumpkins are carved into makeshift candy beacons.
And don’t tell me “They are used to make pumpkin pie!”, because very few people ever use FRESH pumpkin for making pies. I have done this, and yielded one of the best pies I’d ever had. But have you? I’ll admit that if you are reading this, odds are you are part of the self-reliant few that would do such a thing, so in truth, you and I shouldn’t count, sorry! So let me re-phrase with, do you know anyone that doesn’t garden or raise animals that has had a jack o’ lantern…and used it to make pies after having a candle in it for Halloween?
Right. Me neither.
So the seeds are not used for food, the pumpkin itself is not used for food, and nobody seems to care but me…and possibly you. Why is that? Don’t tell me “tradition”, since “traditionally”, our forefathers used to store dried pumpkin for use as wintertime food. It makes a great food extender, and has a nice, mild flavor. Go through some lean times, and you’ll be HAPPY to have some pumpkin set aside. I’ll say it again, nothing makes food taste better like hunger does.
How can we fix this? My person method is to NOT carve a pumpkin, rather paint or color in a face. We aren’t big on decorating anyway, so there is no real good reason to carve up a defenseless pumpkin. We will color a few, then after Halloween, I’ll break them down into seeds and flesh. The seeds get rinsed, salted, and roasted. The flesh gets turned into all sorts of things – custard, Paleo “oatmeal”, soups, curries, and of course, Pumpkin pie with a bacon crust (don’t knock it, its FABULOUS!).
This year, I had an odd pumpkin. I’m not sure what type of pumpkin it was, but the flesh was very stringy, much like a spaghetti squash. So I used it as a vegetable noodle. I made a Canadian Bacon stock since I had just received about twenty pounds of home made Canadian Bacon (See note to the right) from BlueTang, bless his soul! I added some dehydrated sweet peppers that I had dried myself, seasoned the whole thing to my liking, and just as it was finished, turned off the heat and dropped in two handfuls of shredded pumpkin “strings”. The residual heat cooked the pumpkin, and left it Al dente, about as close as I was going to get to a noodle and stay on a Paleo diet. The texture was pretty good, and I loved the flavor. Excellent!
As far as long term storage options are to dehydrate the pumpkin, then vac seal it. You can also cook it up, mash it up, then bag and freeze it. And if you have a pressure canner, you are able to pressure can it, but only in chunks, as puree doesn’t heat evenly enough to yield a safe product. Any way you preserve it, you get to taste that pumpkin richness long after Christmas, and NOT have it out of a can.
Please don’t waste pumpkins. They are a tasty option that are rather inexpensive, when purchased at the proper time…say this week. (I just read of some friends that bought a shopping cart FULL of pumpkins…marked down to a penny each!) If nothing else, add it as filler…or you can promote it to a star ingredient like a pumpkin custard….or that bacon crusted pumpkin pie….
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* – There was a time when I was so poor, I was living in my car, and on a GOOD day, I would get to eat…I LOATHE the thought of food being wasted….