Why NOT Use That Halloween Pumpkin?

Pumpkins raised for carving, I just learned, are not the best ones to use for cooking. Who knew!

I’ve been peeling and cooking my Jack O’Lantern pumpkins for years and making delicious pumpkin bread and pie from them since the kids were small. It has grown to kind of a (time consuming) tradition.

Pumpkins apparently come in varieties. The best variety, so I read, is a small ‘sugar’ pumpkin, or lacking that, actually just a butternut squash. The pumpkin you buy in a can comes from these varieties.

I doubt I would ever buy a special pumpkin to cook. If I have one anyway, for decoration, I will cook it. It is just part of my no-waste mindset.

Processing the pumpkin.

Here’s what I do, others process differently. After washing it and scraping out the strings and seeds, I cut the pumpkin along the vertical lines into chunks about 2 inches long. I peel the skin off (with my potato peeler) and make sure the inside is cleaned off. The chunks go into a pot with a tiny bit of water and into the oven for at least an hour, until the meat of the pumpkin is soft.

I cool the cooked pumpkin meat and drain it, then beat it with my hand mixer until it is smoothly pureed. Then it goes by 2 cupfuls into freezer bags, flattened to take up the least amount of space.  I label it and put it in the freezer for later.

The peels, strings, seeds (we don’t eat the seeds, but some do) and stem go out into the woods for the critters to enjoy.

Using the processed pumpkin.

Today was the processing day. Later this month, I’ll start baking the loaves of pumpkin bread I give away as gifts each Christmas.

Two Loaves of Pumpkin Bread:

  • 2/3 C vegetable shortening
  • 2 2/3 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 C processed pumpkin
  • 3 1/3 C flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t cloves
  • 2/3 C coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 2/3 C raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans.

Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Stir in eggs and pumpkin. Blend in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans. Bake about 70 minutes or until done.

I sometimes sprinkle the top with sugar before baking. I sometimes drizzle the top with a mix of confectioners sugar and water and almond flavor after baking. Wrap in aluminum foil and freeze. Pull out at Christmas, wrap a big bow around the middle and make someone’s day.

Here is a recipe for Jack O’Lantern pie as well.

Why NOT?

Why NOT use that Jack O’Lantern pumpkin? Why waste it just because another variety is ‘better’? Yes it takes some time to process, but if you make it a tradition, it becomes more fun.

I’ve read that you can also use it for livestock feed, mulch, pinatas, pumpkin smashing parties, fall flower arrangement vases, bird feeders and for pumpkin bowling!

Do you recycle your Jack O’Lantern? What do you do with yours?