Processing pumpkins – What to do with them all

Despite my not planting any, I harvested a few pumpkins this year from my volunteer garden.  Since the killing frost a few weeks ago, they have been sitting on my counter taking up space and waiting to be processed.  Today I finally got around to tackling at least some of them.  I started with three large pumpkins, two small pumpkins, and a Hubbard squash.  The three large pumpkins are now in the freezer as purée, ready to become pies.

To process pumpkins, you need some basic equipment.  A cutting board, a good large knife, a large spoon, a jelly roll pan (known in my house as a cookie sheet), and a food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, a food mill also works, or a blender.

Gourds awaiting their fate


Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Make sure nothing else is in your oven, like pizza stones from the last time you made pizza.

Start by cutting off the stem end of the pumpkin.  Sometimes it will be a nice pretty slice, sometimes it will be a butcher job.

Butcher job
Nice and pretty

Cut your pumpkin in half longitudinally (from top to bottom).  Depending on the size of your pumpkin in relation to your knife, you may have to just cut all the way around rather than straight down.  This means that when you come back up the other side, your cuts might not line up.


Now comes the fun part, pulling out the guts and seeds.  Having a five-year-old help can either be fun or frustrating.  Take a large spoon or the scooper from a cheap jack-o-lantern kit and scoop out the seeds and guts.  Set them aside in a bowl for cleaning and using later.



Food isn’t always perfect, especially if it grows in a chicken coop.  This pumpkin had some unsightly problems so I just cut out the bad part.  Waste not, want not.  I also decided not to keep the seeds from this one because they just looked off to me.

step-2a step-2b step-2c step-2d step-2e


Now place your clean pumpkin halves face down on a cookie sheet.  I added 2 cups of water to each cookie sheet so that the pumpkin didn’t dry out.  I might skip that step next time because the pumpkin flesh absorbed some of the water, which I didn’t discover until the puréeing step.

Before baking
Before baking

Bake at 350 for one hour.

This one didn’t collapse until after I took it out of the oven. I think there was some sort of vacuum effect.

step-5b step-5a


Now that they are very hot, transfer them to your cutting board or whatever work surface you prefer to use.  Don’t burn yourself.  Let them cool a few minutes first, then start scraping the flesh from inside with the large spoon.


This is how it should look when you are done, if not all intact.
This is how it should look when you are done, if not all intact.

Put all the flesh you scrape out into your food processor.  I recommend only putting in a quarter pumpkin at a time.  Half a pumpkin was a bit unwieldy.

Half a pumpkin

Process until you have a nice smooth consistency.


Measure this out into a 2-cup measuring cup, then transfer to a quart-size freezer bag.  Two cups of purée weigh 18 ounces, so just slightly more than a can of commercial purée.  When you open your freezer bags to fill them, fold the top over so that any spills will be caught on the inside of the bag and the outside of the bag stays clean.

step-10 step-11

Seal your bag up with as little air as possible.  I close the ziplock part to within an inch, then flatten it and squish the puree around until it is very close to squeezing out, then finish closing the ziplock.  Label it with both contents and date.


Repeat until all of your pumpkin is processed.  Stack your freezer bags up and take them to the freezer.  Discover that you still have two bags left from three years ago.  From my three largish pumpkins, I got 31 cups of purée.

One package is just right to make one pie.  By squishing the bags flat, they will thaw quickly when you take them out of the freezer.

Your turn

What are your favorite things to make with pumpkin?

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