Pumpkins are everywhere from September through October, and then as suddenly as they appear they are gone. We carved them for Halloween and decorated our tables and doorways with them. Pumpkin pie spice was in everything from coffee to lip balm and candles. But now what? Of course you can compost them or feed them to goats and chickens. You can make pumpkin pies, pumpkin coconut curry soup, pumpkin crepes, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin seeds, and the list goes on. Pumpkins can be huge! and just one pumpkin would suffice to make all of those aforementioned treats.
So what about preserving them for later? You see canned pumpkin in the store and probably used it to make pumpkin pie, why not can some for later? Yes you can can pumpkin, but only with a pressure canner. However, consider how many jars you are going to need to can even a single pumpkin. And what about the shelf space for that pumpkin?
Freezing pumpkin is an option too! But let’s see about how much freezer space you want to devote to that pumpkin. And besides the space, because pumpkin is mostly water, it doesn’t seem to come out of the freezer quite the way it went in. I’ll admit, I’ve composted too much frozen pumpkin to want to try that again. I need my valuable freezer space for other things.
Oh! I did make some pumpkin butter once and canned that. It was pretty good but a little goes a long way, and I didn’t really need 2 cases of pumpkin butter—and neither did my friends and family it turns out.
So why even bother with preserving pumpkin?
There are a few reasons I think it’s worthwhile to preserve pumpkins. First, pumpkins are plentiful in the fall whether you buy pumpkins or grow them yourself. Second, your friends may very gladly give them to you when they are ready to toss them after Halloween or Thanksgiving. Third, they are HUGE vegetables that have enormous nutritional value. I always refer to Dr. Axe on nutritional info because I think he dives deeper into how foods benefit us, so check that out HERE.
As far as food labels go, this is the breakdown of basic nutrients in one cup of canned pumpkin according to Healthline.com:
- Calories: 137
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 7 grams
- Carbs: 19 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Vitamin A (as beta carotene): 209% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 37% of the DV
- Copper: 28% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 22% of the DV
- Iron: 18% of the DV
- Magnesium: 13% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 10% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 10% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 10% of the DV
- Potassium: 10% of the D
For even more of a finer nutritional breakdown go HERE.
The nutrient that is NOT listed anywhere, but is the largest component of a pumpkin, is WATER. And that, my friends, is the reason pumpkins are so big and why they are a challenge to preserve. But I have the answer! Remove the water and you are left with all those condensed nutrients and concentrated flavor. YES! I’M TALKING ABOUT DEHYDRATION!
Look at this photo. Those two jars, one half-pint and one pint, contain an entire pumpkin, minus the seeds. Together, they wouldn’t even fill a pint jar. Think of the shelf space you are saving here. This is so exciting to me. One of the jars contains pumpkin that has been cooked and puréed before dehydrating and the other is raw. Both turned out great. Cooking gives you a different taste and nutritional value than raw, and I would use them differently.
Cooked Dehydrated Pumpkin can be used for pumpkin soup by simply adding water or broth to reconstitute and then adding your soup ingredients, like curry and coconut milk (drool). Add pumpkin spice to the cooked pumpkin before dehydrating for a yummy fruit leather or powdered on oatmeal or in coffee.
Raw Dehydrated Pumpkin has a fresher sweet taste that is perfect for smoothies, but can also be used in baked goods as part of the dry ingredients, as with the cooked version. We are talking massive nutritional boost along with flavor to anything you put it in. One of the best things about dehydrating pumpkin is how easy it is. All you really need is a dehydrator and a blender or coffee grinder. If you are cooking it first then you’d need an oven too.
How to Dehydrate Raw Pumpkin
Dehydrating raw pumpkin is super basic. Here are the steps in order so it’s easy to see at a glance:
- Wash the outside of the pumpkin, but don’t bother peeling it.
- Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (save some for planting and dry or roast the rest)
- Slice the pumpkin into 1/4 inch thick wedges.
- Place onto dehydrator trays with as much space as you can give them. It’s better to use more trays than tightly packing fewer trays to allow for more air movement.
- Set your dehydrator to 135° F if you can, and leave it to work for a couple days. If you don’t have a heat setting, then it will just take a little longer, which is fine.
- Once pumpkin is hard and brittle it is ready. Let it cool to room temperature before you do anything else.
- At this point you can vacuum seal the whole pieces in a jar or bag or pulverize it into powder form.
- Vacuum seal the powder in bags for storage, or place in a jar for daily use (like spoonfuls in smoothies).
How to Dehydrate Cooked Pumpkin
Cooking pumpkin before dehydrating gives you a lot of options for use and it also intensifies the flavor and sweetness. Here is how you do it.
- Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds, and then cut it in large chunks to fit on a baking sheet or roasting pan.
- Bake the pumpkin at 375 for about an hour, or until a knife easily inserts into it.
- Let the pumpkin cool to room temperature and then scoop out the flesh from the peel and place in a blender.
- Purée the pumpkin till smooth (you can add pumpkin pie spice at this point if you want)
- Fill your dehydrator trays with tray liners or make your own by cutting silicone grill sheets or plastic wrap. (Parchment paper may work as well.)
- Spread a thin layer of purée on the liners until you dehydrator is full.
- Set your dehydrator to 135° F and leave it until the pumpkin is leathery for snacking or brittle for making powder.
- If making powder, peel off the sheets and place in a blender and blend until it becomes a fine powder. You can sift it with a wire mesh colander to get a finer powder and then blend the larger pieces until it is finer.
- Store in a vacuum sealed bag or in smaller amounts in jars for daily use. Because of pumpkin’s own sugar content, the powder may become more solid, but just break it up as you use.
I can’t wait for you to try making dehydrated pumpkin at home. You won’t believe how amazing the flavor is and how many ideas will be bursting through your head for how to use this. I even bet you’ll put pumpkins at the top of your list for growing in next year’s garden. I know I will!
For now, I’m having oatmeal topped with spiced dehydrated pumpkin, a drizzle of raw honey, cream, and walnuts. Just wow!!
Preserving food is an essential skill for those of us who grow our own or simply want to save some for later. Get the most bang for your buck and the best nutrition by learning as you go. For more food preservation recipes, click HERE.