Pumpkins are funny in that most people don't really think about them or even see them throughout most of the year. However, once the weather starts to turn and we hit about Mid-September, they are EV-ER-Y-WHERE! Which means, there is way more out there than the public can really use and you will often see awesome sales. Sales that you can take full advantage of once you learn how to freeze pumpkin.
Yes, you can, in fact freeze pumpkin. Pumpkin can even be frozen raw, cubed or chunks, or as a pumpkin pie ready puree. Pumpkin will stay fresh in the freezer for up to a year and is easily thawed out overnight in the fridge!
Ready to learn how to make your pumpkin last all year round? Keep on reading and find out!
How To Freeze Pumpkin
If you're ready to learn how to freeze pumpkin you are in the right place. Freezing pumpkin is not too terribly different from other gourd and squash type vegetables, like freezing butternut squash, freezing spaghetti squash, freezing sweet potatoes, freezing zucchini, and freezing yellow squash. Today we will learn food preservation techniques to freeze raw, sliced or cubed, and pureed pumpkin.
Can you freeze pumpkin without cooking it?
As a matter of fact, you do not have to cook pumpkin before freezing it. Just be sure to eat it quickly. Raw pumpkin when frozen will still contain an enzyme that will allow it to still age even after you freeze it. When you cook it, or blnach it, that enzyme is destroyed and you can store the pumpkin for up to a year!
What is blanching?
Blanching is the process of cooking a fruit or vegetable by placing it in a pot of boiling water for a very short period of time. Once that time is up, you immediately stop the cooking process with an ice bath. The amount of time the food is boiled is just long enough to kill the aging enzyme but not long enough to take the vegetable out of an easily discernible raw state.
How do you blanch pumpkin?
To blanch you just need a large pot of boiling water, a large bowl filled with ice water, and a colander or steamer basket large enough to fit in both the pot and the bowl. Here are the steps to blanch pumpkin.
- Boil a large stock pot of water
- Fill your large mixing bowl with ice water
- Add a pound or so of the food you are blanching (pumpkin, in this case) into the colander
- When the pot of water is at a rolling boil lower the colander into the boiling water
- Set a timer for 2:30 to 3 minutes
- When the time is up, switch the colander from the heat to the awaiting ice bath
- Reset the timer for 2:30 to 3 minutes (whichever you used the first time)
- When that timer goes off, remove the colander from the ice bath
- Take the pumpkin out of the colander and place it on a towel or paper towels
- You can use paper towels to pat the pumpkin dry
- Continue until you have removed any and all excess water so you can avoid future freezer burn
Need to get all your food preserved easily? Check out the Ultimate Guide To Freezing Food so that you can fill your freezer without in minimal time.
How long do you blanch pumpkin?
We always reccomend blanching only a pound at a time. A pound of pumpkin can be blanched in about 2:30 to 3 minutes depending on how thick the cut pieces are.
|Blanched||2:30 to 3 minutes per lb|
|Time To Freeze||2 to 4 hours (flash freeze)|
12 to 24 (deep freeze)
|Time to Thaw||a few hours in the fridge|
in the microwave in 30 seconds increments until soft
|Uses||anything that does not rely on the texture or firmness of pumpkin|
|Freezer Life||up to 12 months|
Why should I freeze pumpkin?
Aside from it being super tasty there are a couple other reasons to freeze it. One reason is that having pumpkin as a part of your diet is a healthy food choice. It is full of beta-carotene, like carrots, which converts to Vitamin A. This has shown promise to protect against various forms of cancer and to help prevent heart disease.
The other reason is that freezing pumpkin will extend it's shelf life, or freezer life in this case, up to 6 times longer! That means you can plant extra or hit a big sale a couple days after Thanksgiving.
Frozen Vs Non-frozen
|Freezer Life||Fridge Life||Shelf Life|
|up to 1 year||2 to 3 days (cut)||2 to 3 months (uncut)|
You are going to need the following supplies:
- 2 colanders (for washing and blanching)
- knife and cutting board (for various cuts)
- 2 cookie sheets (for flash freezing and roasting in oven)
- blender or food processor (for puree)
- large stock pot (steamed or boiled)
- Oven or Ninja Foodi (for roasting)
- ice cube trays (for puree)
- Measuring cup
- Freezer bags or Mason Jars
- Sharpie or marker
How To Freeze Pumpkin
The three primary ways you can preserve pumpkin with freezing is raw, cut, and pureed. We'll start with raw since it's the quickest and easiest and end with pureed because it takes the longest.
How to freeze raw pumpkin
Like we said, this is the easiest way to freeze pumpkin. It is also our least favorite way since it does not stay fresh as long and the taste, texture, and overall quality declines pretty quickly; usually in a few weeks.
- using a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin into a few manageable pieces
- remove the seeds and guts
- save the seeds, they are a delicious and healthy snack)
- carve the pumpkin from the shell or rind
- cut into slices or cubes
- place them into a freezer bag
- remember to put the contents, freeze date, and use by date on the bag
- put the bag in the freezer where it can sit for 24 hours without being disturbed
How to freeze cooked pumpkin
To freeze cut pieces of pumpkin, but to make them last a whole lot longer, we will follow the same steps from above, but with two very important additions in the middle; blanching, which we discussed earlier, and flash freezing.
What Is Flash Freezing
Flash freezing is a food preservation term that basically just means you freeze your food before you freeze it. Confused? Don't be, let me explain.
We put the pieces of pumpkin in the freezer for just long enough that any water on or just below the surface will freeze and harden. The lack of external moisture will keep the pumpkin from freezing together and sticking in a clump when you store them long term.
How To Flash Freeze
Flash freezing is really easy to do. Here are the steps:
- Take out a cookie sheet or baking pan small enough to fit into your freezer
- Cover it in aluminum foil or parchment paper
- Arrange the pumpkin in a single, non-overlapping layer
- Put it into the freezer and set a timer for 2 to 4 hours
- When the timer goes off remove the pan from the freezer and then continue with the rest of the freezing instructions
Flash freezing is one of the key secrets to amazing freezing results. You can use it for all sorts of things like freezing peas, freezing cilantro, freezing mint, freezing blueberries, freezing blackberries, freezing watermelon, freezing cantaloupe, and freezing raspberries.
Chunks, cubes, and slices
Regardless of what shape you want your pumpkin, they all follow the same instructions.
- Cut your pumpkin into manageable chunks (quaters work well)
- remove the seeds and inner pieces
- carefully, run a knife between the meat of the pumpkin and the outer shell
- cut the meat into whatever shapes you desire
- following the directions above, blanch your pumpkin
- when you finish stick them in the freezer to flash freeze them
- while you are waiting for them to flash freeze, you can label all of the freezer bags with the date, use by date, and contents
- when you pull them from the freezer after flash freezing, put them into the freezer bags you just labeled
- put those bags back into the freezer where they will freeze completely in about 24 hours
Follow the instructions above for chunks, cubes, and slices but stop before blanching. Instead of blanching we are going to either boil them or roast them. We do these instead of simply blanching because the longer cook time will make them soft enough that the food processor can really puree them thoroughly.
Out of those two options, we really prefer to roast them if we are going to use them for something sweet like pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin bread. Roasting them starts the process of caramalization which makes the pureed pumpkin much sweeter.
- When you are ready to cook the pumpkin, decide if you want to boil or roast them
- Methods of cooking
- put a pot of water on the stove and put your pumpkin in once it starts to boil
- set a timer for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork
- remove from the heat and move to the next step
- preheat your oven to 350º
- put all of your pieces in single layer on a cookie sheet
- put them in the oven for about an hour
- remember to turn each piece about halfway through
- they are ready when the timer goes off or they are fork tender
- Once you have finished boiling or roasting your pumpkin, put the pieces to the side and allow them to cool
- Once cooled put everything into a food processor
- Use the manual or pulse function to process the pumpkin until it is completely liquified
- Pull out your measuring cup and freezer bags/Mason Jars
- Scoop the amount of pumpkin you want to freeze per bag or jar into the freezer safe container and close it
- squeeze all of the air out of the freezer bags
- leave about 15 to 20% headspace at the top of the Mason Jar empty for when the pumpkin expands while freezing
- Put the pumpkin into the freezer where it can sit in a constant, undisturbed temperature for at least 24 hours
If you need more help getting your foods frozen, check out the Ultimate Freezing Food Guide for a complete quick start reference so that you can have a well-stocked freezer.