Jul 6, 2023
Pumpkin is well-loved because of its unique earthy flavor. It’s so versatile that you can create either sweet or savory recipes. The thing with pumpkin is it’s shelf-stable for 2-3 months as long as the vegetable’s free from pests and disease. But that’s a whole pumpkin. Sliced pumpkin lasts for 5-7 days in the fridge, while cooked ones lasts 4-5 days. Canned pumpkin (store-bought) lasts for 5 years. But you don’t know exactly what goes in it. So, here’s how to freeze dry pumpkins to make it shelf-stable for 25-30 years.
Not all pumpkin is suitable for freeze-drying. Since we’re talking about food storage your family will consume in emergencies, you should get the best.
Not all pumpkins are ideal for consumption. You should get a vegetable that’s ideal for cooking because they’re dense, sweet, and has a good amount of flesh.
Sugar pumpkins (pie or sweet pumpkins) are ideal for freeze-drying. These are small, round pumpkins that have tasty, dense flesh. The large ones have a watery, stringy flesh, so they’re more suited for carving and decorating. Some varieties of pumpkin you can freeze dry are:
Appearance can tell you how healthy or fresh a pumpkin is. Goo for ones that have firm and intact outer skin. Avoid those that have bruises, soft spots, or cuts. The skin should have an even color, free of wrinkles.
Pumpkins come in different sizes. As a general rule of thumb, the small ones are ideal for cooking. The big ones should be left alone for carving.
Believe it or not, the stem is a good indicator of the vegetable’s freshness. Choose the one with a green, firmly-attached stem. Avoid those with a shriveled, dried-out stem because it’s getting old or near spoiling.
A ripe pumpkin is heavy because it’s 90% water. So go for a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size. It means the pumpkin is ripe and has a good moisture to it.
Ever seen someone tap a pumpkin? Because it’s also a good indication of a pumpkin’s ripeness. Tapping should produce a hollow “thump” or “thud”, much like an empty plastic container or large empty water bottle.
It’s better to get pumpkins from the local farmers’ market. They are often fresher and have better flavor. Moreover, you also help support the local community and promote the environment.
The first step to preparing your pumpkin is to clean it thoroughly. Whether you bought it or grew it yourself, it’s important that you have food that’s safe to eat. Wash it thoroughly under running water, giving careful attention to each crevice so no soil or dirt is left.
Now, there are several ways to prepare the vegetable, depending on how you will use it.
It would be best to peel the pumpkin because the skin becomes tough and leathery when freeze-dried. Before slicing them in half, you can use a t-shaped peeler for small, thin-skinned pumpkins. You can cut out a portion on the bottom for those with thick skins to make it stable. Then use your knife to cut away the skin from top to bottom.
Alternatively, you can remove the bottom and top, then slice the pumpkin in half. This way, you can take out the core and seeds, then cut the pumpkin in manageable pieces. Some find this method easier and simpler.
However you want to prepare the pumpkin, removing the core is important. It contains seeds that are hard to freeze and dry and can ruin your batch.
Roasting releases the pumpkin flavors and makes it easy for you to peel. This is great if you want to use the pumpkin for puree. Roast the pumpkin at 400°F (204°C) for 50 minutes, with the flesh side up. Then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
You can slice, dice, or cube your vegetable if you want chunky bits of flesh. However, the maximum thickness you can go is 3/4 of an inch. Any thicker and your freeze-dryer will not work efficiently.
Shredding is ideal if you want to make pumpkin powder. You can use a vegetable grater or a shredder attachment to your food processor.
Since pumpkin is a crunchy crop, blanching will help preserve as much flavor and texture. It’s also recommended for shredded pumpkin. For big pieces, blanch for 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness. For shredded ones, take out the vegetable the moment the water comes to a boil. Then stop the cooking process by shocking your food with ice water bath.
Pre-freezing is an option, but it can certainly help with the process. Especially if you’re freeze-drying pureed pumpkin. Put the trays of pumpkin in the freezer for at least 48 hours undisturbed. The more you open the freezer door, the more condensation you create, leading to bigger ice crystals. The bigger the ice crystals, the poorer texture you’ll get with your freeze-dried pumpkin.
It’s now very easy to freeze-dry the vegetable thanks to the new software.
There’s no need to do custom settings for freeze-drying vegetables. You can increase the drying temperature by pressing “CUSTOMIZE” instead of “START”. However, do this with caution because higher drying temperatures can lead to burning.
Once you’re done, you can break the puree into small pieces. Or you can grind this and the shredded ones to make a smooth powder. For the slices or cubes, you can leave them as is.
Then you can choose Mason jars or Mylar bags to store them. Mason jars work for on-demand use. Mylar bags are ideal for small storage spaces, long term storage, and for traveling.
Whatever you use, remember to use 1-2 of the 300cc oxygen absorbers before sealing. These will take out any residual oxygen in the containers and extend shelf-life.
Keep the containers in a cool, dark place with a temperature lower than 72°F (22 °C). Relative humidity should stay at 15% or less to prevent molds and other harmful microorganisms from growing.
If you’re rehydrating freeze-dried pumpkin puree or pumpkin powder, go for a 1:1 ratio. If you’re rehydrating 250 g of product, use 250 mL of water. If you’re not sure, go for a little bit less. It’s easier to add more water than it is to add more dry ingredients.
Use enough water to cover the slices or cubes, but not so much that they’re drowning. Then let them sit for 15-20 minutes for warm water or 25-35 minutes for cold water.
Freeze-dried pumpkin is a great vegetable to have to help you stay food secure. It tastes almost the same as fresh pumpkin, and no one can tell the difference. You can use it in pies, soups, bread, or any dish that you want.
What kind of pumpkin do you plan to freeze-dry? Let us know in the comment section.
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