Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh the drama of squash.

Dear Donk,

Remember those randomly occurring pumpkins from my 2008 garden?

NO?? Pffffffft!

Just kidding, I barely do either. Going along with my theme of garden forgetfulness and all.

Well, even though it looked a lot like I let that volunteer plant go crazy and take half a raised bed and then its babies sat and decorated my sideboard for a few months and sat out on the front porch in an out-of-season-decor way holding on a loose brick before bringing them all in and roasting them and pureeing them and freezing them in our chesty for no good reason -- I did not.

Did you get all that?

Basically, all of that effort (of which there was precious little aside from the processing part at the end) didn't go for nothing because TEE DAH I made something with some of the puree and that something was this month's Craft: along challenge - creamy pumpkin pasta.

But before we get to the meaningful reason of why you'd come to read this post, let me bore you with the minutia of processing volunteer pumpkins and share with you a shockingly common discussion topic in our household.

That being: What the fuck are we doing with XYZ thing and why is it sitting out?

See, there are two big controversies at play in this particular instance. One - we don't have a lot of space in our pea sized house, and, Two - Bubba hates seasonal decor. Especially when it's out of its season.

And, in this particular instance, I had six smallish to mediumish pumpkins sitting out on our not-huge porch and it was the middle of February - long past the harvesty seasonal times that might call for pumpkiny decor.

I knew that my time to dispatch the pumpkins had come, but I let them hang out there on the porch anyway, because there was a loose brick fragment I needed to keep in place and balancing six pumpkins on it was the fix I was ready to provide at time.

(Later I would employ the magic of Gorilla Glue and then even later still (now) we'd be employing the magic of a Real Live Contractor - but that's a story for another day)

Anyway, one day Bubba strode into our house, fresh from a rainy trip to the hardware store, and declared that it was high time for the pumpkins to go. What with us being closer to the current year's Halloween than the previous year's and all.

I agreed and told him that I had been planning to roast them and puree them anyway so I should just do that right now, then. I did not register any raised eyebrows at my declaration, but I assume there were a few. Even if they happened when I wasn't looking. And even if I was one of the ones raising an eyebrow.

Basically, the theory of roasting pumpkins and processing them into puree had crossed my mind, but the whole thing seemed so labor intensive for an end product that I could easily just go get five minutes away at TJ's, that I'd sort of started coming to terms with composting the pumpkins when their numbers were up.

Suddenly, though, I was compelled to make good on this gardening venture and see it through to fruition, even though that fruition was only theoretical and beholden to no man.

Oh well, you know how I am about this whole "to fruition" thing.

So, with a rainy day ahead of me and, apparently, nothing better to do in the whole wide world than reduce a sinkful of pumpkins down to a freezer bag of puree, I got started.

Hello, fuckers.

Folks - let me tell you - despite the fact that I will use this puree and it does taste as fabulous as pumpkin puree can taste - this is a process I will forgo in the future in lieu of some fine canned pumpkin from TJ's because WOW this took forever and produced very little.

Which is why I haven't told you about it for now. Because I didn't want you getting the idea that my life was so small and pointless that I'd spend half a day making pumpkin puree because the process is obviously so labor intensive that only psychopaths would be interested.

I get self-conscious, what can I say.

However, if you're a psychopath and want to get puree from your pumpkins, you can follow this process. Or, if you just like to see how I tortured myself one rainy day this past February, you can read along and quietly snicker to yourself or start dialing the local loony bin.

Hey, sometimes we all do pointless shit.

Witness ye, Pointless Shit.
Let's start with the roasting. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil, heat your oven to 400 and top your pumpkins. After which, scoop the inner crap out (If you're an irretrievable psycho, you can rinse those seeds and make plans to toast them, but I didn't because that's too far even for me) and cut them into wedges or halves or whatever shapes make them all fit on one baking sheet because LORD KNOWS you're not going through this twice.

I don't take two trips from the car with groceries and I'm SURE AS HELL not taking two trips through the oven for pumpkin puree. No sir.

Let the pumpkin roast in the oven until a fork can easily pierce the skin and it feels soft inside. Warning: this takes forever.

Remove the pumpkins from the oven wearing two oven mitts and a back brace because WOW they're fucking heavy.

Let them cool on the stovetop for a million years or until you can manage to cradle the pieces in one potholder-covered hand while scooping out the flesh with a spoon in your other hand.

Admire how the remnant skin looks like something from an old Friday the 13th movie. Move on.

Place a strainer over a bowl and plop all your cooked pumpkin in the strainer. With the back of a big spoon (and then your hand because you feel like the spoon isn't doing it fast enough) press the pumpkin so that the liquid drains out into the bowl below.

Do this until you have a nice smooth consistency in the strainer. Then scoop it all out into a clean new bowl and have at it with the immersion blender to make it super smooth.

Once you're done with all that mess, amaze yourself by fitting six pumpkin's worth of puree and half a day's work into ONE gallon sized Ziploc bag. Pat the puree flat in the bag (after sealing it) and, using your finger, "break" the puree inside the bag into four individual squares. These perforations will let you thaw and use smaller amounts later because who in the whole wide world is going to need a gallon's worth of pumpkin puree at once?

No one, that's who.

I kinda didn't think this would work, but it totally does.
Warning: You'll feel like you're wasting your life.

Then throw this carefully compartmentalized pumpkin puree into the freezer and freeze it flat. Then, when Bubba buys you a chest freezer for your birthday, put it in there *knowing* full well you'll never use it but because you're a sentimentalist when it comes to your own wasted time and efforts, store it in there anyway and then try not to look at it when you go to the chesty to store all your tomatoes.

The guilt is ongoing.

Ten months later, surprise yourself by going freezer diving (totally dangerous, I was nearly killed by a frozen tomato avalanche) to retrieve the forgotten bag of pumpkin puree to make FINALLY TEE DAH the creamy pumpkin pasta of this month's Craft: along challenge.

Death-defying pumpkin
PHEW. That was a long time coming.

After retrieving the bag and marveling at your frontierswomanness easily break off a brick of pumpkin, slide it into an inferior zippie bag (I don't know why these little ones suck, but they do, the plastic is too thin) and let it float in the small part of the sink in warm water for about ten minutes, or until it's thawed. Since you pat it real flat in the bag, it thaws fast.

Put the rest back in the freezer, then.

Now, if you made it through all that and you still want to make this creamy pumpkin pasta, let me advise you not to skip the sausage.

I did and the results were a tad bland. I didn't have anything other than spicy sausage at home, so I skipped it altogether and I suspect that was a mistake and the spiciness would have been AOK if I'd been willing to go out on a limb, which I was not because I was using The Precious Pumpkin Puree of Yore and didn't want to befoul it with some not-explicitly-included-in-the-recipe ingredients.

In this case, excluding the sausage should be considered a not-explicitly-included-in-the-recipe ingredient - so do what you must to procure it.

Aside from aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall that though, the recipe was simple, quick and provided a good base onto which I could load a nice big pile of fresh broccoli from the farmshare.

And, lawdy, if I don't love me some broccoli freshly steamed in lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt.

This is a new experimental view of cooking.
Whaddya think?

Notice the broccoli off to the side, there? After this photo, I just put it on top.

So, yeah, that's the story of how I finally used some of this puree to make something and then was too lazy to go to the store for sweet Italian sausage. Sometimes I can be such an asshole.

Good thing I had that awesome broccoli. And good thing I have another labor intensive pureeing project in my future because I guess I just didn't get enough of that the first time around.

Happy crafting, doll.



  1. Yeah- they sell pumpkin puree for a reason. So the 4 year olds in China have something to do. ;)

    I've dabbled in doing purees because I was a sucker and bought that Jessica Seinfeld book because, as you know, my daughter and I eat nothing of nutritional value. Husband and son will eat anything if it hasn't moved recently. SO, I"m going to *attempt* at making something using a puree and see if we die in the process of trying to eat. Tears will be shed. I'll likely gag while trying to be a good role model for Olivia. Worst part of parenting.

  2. I made it with chicken, and it was creamy goodness, but I agree it could use more spice! I'll try sausage next time too. Or, if I do chicken I'll have to add more spices or garlic or something.

  3. I have a tip that will maybe help you if you should ever make your own pumpkin puree again: cut your pumpkin into quarters first, then scoop out the guts (I use a paring knife to just cut it out because I think it is so gross to touch) and the put them upside down in a 9x13 pan with an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with foil and bake at like 400 for maybe 45 minutes or so. The steam loosens is all really nicely so all you do is try to pick it up with your ovenmitt at the end of the baking, and the whole skin just slips off in one piece. So easy. At that point I just mash it with a potato masher and use it in whatever recipe. And then get made fun of by whomever I grace my pumpkin baking with. Because it's like 99 cents for a can and all.

  4. Sara - Another reason why I can't have kids - setting a good example is not my strong suit.

    Sunny - I'm thinking a spicy sausage or the sweet Italian they recommend. Something must be done to save this dish!

    Alevin - If you think I'm making pumpkin puree again, you are delusional, but thank you :)

  5. Welcome to the dangerous sport of Freezer Diving. It's a small and select group of athletes, all with strained back muscles from lifting six pound roasts from four feet down.

    Or maybe that's just me.

  6. I just want to know what to do if my sink has equaly sized sides. I have no small side to my sink to thaw my pumpkin puree in. Wait! It's okay! I don't have any pumkpin puree in my freezer!

    Never mind!

  7. Wow, making the puree certainly is an involved process. I was so very tempted to make it from scratch this year but, after reading about the process and factoring in the time element (plus purchasing pumpkins since I didn't grow any), I realized the can on sale at Albertson's was actually more preferable to me. I've therefore failed at any attempt to be a pioneer woman.

    Your experimental view of cooking photos are actually interesting. It's a neat approach to photographing your endeavors.

    Happy Halloween and congratulations on achieving the Craft:Along dish project.

  8. Y'know what - even after all your nay-saying and f-bomb dropping (I'm SOOOO offended!) (not!) about the pumpkin process, it's the day after Halloween and I'm kinda tired of looking at ALLLLL the pumpkins I grew this year. So yesterday while at the store I picked up a package each of sweet sausages and spicey sausages. I think I'm gonna have a go at the pumpkins-in-the-oven today and maybe just try this recipe with a mix of half-each of the sausage types, and the other half are gonna go in some tomato-saucey thing.... Both seem like fitting dishes for a cold fall week, right?

  9. lol! Well, great of you for attempting!!

    We put some pumpkins into freezer each year, but never as puree.. Just grated or cubed, for sauces mostly..

    Some were found this year totally unused from last year, and with new ones around, Mum wanted to throw them away, but I thought - hey, all that energy used to keep them alive for a year, couldn't we make something out of them? (Plus I'm lazy to slice and dice and prefer to use already prepared!:)

    It really depends on the pumpkin/squash, how it tastes. Hokkaido pumpkins are VERY sweet and YUMMY (but Grandma hates them!) So, tastes vary..

    AWESOME about the ziplock bags, they're not so widely used in Slovenia. (So Mum often just used ordinary bags and sometimes heat-sealed them, which is probably not very eco.)
    So we went to reusable boxes for most stuff this year, and then ran out of freezer space! /sigh/

    Can the ziplock bags be reused next year or do they die in the process?

  10. Kris - I thought of you as I was nearly buried by the tomato-lanche. Frightening. Who knew looking for frozen pumpkin in the freezer was so death-defying?

    Oh Claudia - you make fun.

    Junie - After this, canned pumpkin is my pumpkin of choice. I'm not cut out to be a pioneer woman either.

    Jeph - Maybe YOU are the pioneer woman?! Kidding. Enjoy. Or, just, well - be strong.

    Layla - You can definitely reuse the bags. I buy the "freezer" type Ziploc bags (the plastic is thicker) and they can be reused countless times. So, ostensibly, if I did decide to continue on pureeing my own pumpkin, well, they *could* go back in the same bag. Which they won't. Because I'm not doing that again. :)

  11. I roasted three "peanut pumpkins" Sunday - they totaled maybe 25 lbs? Cut them in halves/quarters, flipped them cut side down in a giant roaster with about 1/2 inch of water - took 'em 2 hrs at 400F.

    LOOOOOTS of scooping and straining - I must've had 4+ cups of water come out of them.

    Even after all that, I still had 16.4 lbs of pumpkin puree (thank goodness for the immersion blender!)

    I've made pumpkin bread, your pumpkin cream sauce (DEFINITELY make it with the sausage), given some away, fed a bunch to the dog and cats, and have a bunch going to the freezer.

    Now what do I do with all the other pumpkins on the front porch!?


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.