Having a bumper harvest of lovely, large pumpkins means that you can enjoy them all year round if you store your pumpkins correctly. Alternatively, you might have purchased a large pumpkin from a roadside stall and don’t want to use it all at once. In this case, you need to know how to store cut pumpkins so that you can use them in delicious recipes throughout the year.
Whole pumpkins are best stored in a cool, dry place such as your garage or basement. You should sit the pumpkins on a piece of cardboard with the stem facing down. Cut pumpkin can be stored in the fridge or the freezer or made into pumpkin puree and frozen for use in soups, pies, and other types of cooking.
We’ll explore all the different methods of storing both whole and cut pumpkins in more detail, but first, if you harvest your own home-grown pumpkins, you need to cure them.
How To Cure Your Pumpkins To Give Them A Longer Shelf Life
When you cure your home-grown pumpkins, you’ll increase the toughness of the skin, and this will greatly extend their shelf life. Here’s how to cure freshly harvested pumpkins:
- When you harvest the pumpkins, make sure there are still a few inches of stem attached to the top of the pumpkin. This helps to stop any air or bacteria from reaching the flesh inside the pumpkin. Therefore, avoid using the stem as a handle because it could easily break.
- Lay your pumpkins out in a sunny spot during the day.
- Make sure they’re not stacked on top of each other but laid out in a single layer with some space in between each one. This allows for some air circulation around the pumpkins.
- Before nightfall, place a tarp over the pumpkins to protect them from any possibility of frost.
- In the morning, remove the tarp and let your pumpkins sit in the sun.
- After about a week, your pumpkins should be cured and should have nice tough skins. Now they’re ready to be stored.
How To Store Whole Pumpkins
Freshly harvested and cured pumpkins can be stored for around 6 months or longer if they have really thick skins. Here’s what to do:
- Select a dark, dry spot in your home with a general temperature range of between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 and 16 degrees Celsius). Many people choose to store their pumpkins either in the garage, the basement, or even the garden shed.
- Wash the pumpkins and dry them well.
- Wipe down each pumpkin with a weak solution of bleach and water. To make the solution, add 2 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. This will discourage bacteria from growing on your pumpkins.
- Lay down a sheet of cardboard or a piece of plywood to sit the pumpkins on. This will not only protect your floor in case any of the pumpkins start to decay but also prevent the pumpkins from rotting due to direct contact with the floor. You could also put your pumpkins on bales of hay if you have any handy. Remember that laying your pumpkins straight onto concrete will cause them to rot.
- Place the pumpkins, stem side down, onto the cardboard in a single layer.
- Alternatively, you can store your pumpkins on a timber or wire shelf. Make sure that you store them in a single layer and try to have a little air space in between each one.
- Check your pumpkins regularly to ensure that none of them start to show signs of decay. Make sure you lift up your pumpkins and check the underside as well. Discard any that show signs of rot and use the weak bleach solution to wipe down any other pumpkins that may have been touching the decaying one.
How To Store Pumpkin Once It’s Been Cut
Once a pumpkin has been cut, it can be stored in the refrigerator, or the flesh can be frozen or made into a puree.
Storing cut pumpkin in the refrigerator:
- Wrap your cut pumpkin tightly in cling wrap to eliminate any air getting to the flesh, and store in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator.
- If you take the pumpkin out and notice a white film has developed on the cut edges of the flesh, check to see if the pumpkin is still firm. If it is, just cut away around half an inch from each cut side and discard. The remainder of the pumpkin should be fine to use if it is still quite firm and the skin is still hard.
- If you notice that the pumpkin is soft or has soft spots, then this means that the mold has started to penetrate into the flesh. In this case, you need to discard the entire piece because it is not safe to consume anymore.
Storing raw-cut pumpkin in the freezer:
- Remove the pumpkin seeds and the peel from the pumpkin.
- Cut the pumpkin flesh into 1-inch chunks.
- Place the chunks into a freezer bag loosely. Don’t pack them too tightly, or they will all stick together.
- Seal the bag and make sure that you remove as much air as possible.
- Place the bags of pumpkins into the freezer.
Grate Your Pumpkin Before Freezing
This is another easy method to conveniently store raw pumpkins in the freezer. It might take a little more time to prepare your pumpkin this way, but the end result is well worth it. It also allows you to store the raw grated pumpkin in recipe-size portions so that it’s easy to use when you need it.
Follow these steps:
- Cut your pumpkin open and remove all the seeds.
- Cut the pumpkin into slices and then into large cubes. This makes it easier to grate. Don’t remove the skin at this stage.
- The best way to grate your pumpkin is over your kitchen sink. This avoids getting bits of grated pumpkin all over your workbench and on the floor. Make sure that you give the sink a good clean first and rinse well.
- You could also place a tray at the bottom of the sink to catch all the pumpkin juice. This can then be frozen in ice cube trays for later use.
- Grate each cube of pumpkin down to the skin and then discard the skin.
- If you have a food processor with a grater attachment, you might want to use this instead to make the job easier and much faster. In this case, you’ll want to peel the pumpkin cubes first, and you may need to cut them a little smaller to fit into the feeding tube of the processor.
- Once all the pumpkin has been grated, place the flesh into freezer-proof bags in recipe-size portions.
- Lay the bags flat onto a tray and make sure that you’ve expelled all the air. Freezing the bags flat will make them more compact for long-term storage. Once the bags of grated pumpkin flesh are frozen, you can take them off the tray and stack them neatly in the freezer.
- These will store well in the freezer for six months or more.
- To defrost a bag, just take it out of the freezer and place it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator overnight, preferably in a bowl or dish, to catch any leaks. For some recipes, you could also just add the frozen pumpkin flesh but remember that it will contain some water, so you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.
How To Make And Store Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin puree can easily be stored in the freezer in usable portions. This takes up very little space in the freezer and means that you’ll always have some readily available pumpkin to add to savory dishes or to use in pumpkin pies, cakes, or muffins.
Here’s how to make pumpkin puree and how to store it in the freezer:
- First, you need to cook the pumpkin. You can either roast the pieces in the oven or steam them on the stovetop.
- To do this, cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds.
- Peel the pumpkin if steaming, or you can leave the skin on if you’re going to cook the pumpkin in the oven, as the skin will be easier to remove once the pumpkin is cooked.
- Cut the pumpkin into small chunks.
- Now, either place the chunks on a baking tray and bake in the oven until soft or pop the peel chunks into the top basket of your steamer and steam until soft.
- Let the cooked pumpkin cool to room temperature.
- If the pumpkin still has the skin on it, scrape the flesh from the skin.
- Puree the pumpkin flesh using either a food processor or an immersion blender.
- Put recipe-size portions of the pumpkin puree into freezer-safe zip-lock bags and place these flat on a tray.
- Put the tray into the freezer.
- Once the puree is frozen, you can remove it from the tray and stack the bags neatly in your freezer. Make sure that you label the bags with the date so you can use the oldest ones first.
- Alternatively, you can pack the puree into disposable cups and place each one of these into a freezer bag.
Make Pumpkin Jerky Using A Dehydrator
Another way to preserve your pumpkin is to make jerky from the puree using your food dehydrator.
Here are the steps:
- Season your pumpkin puree with some brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and cloves, and add a little salt. The salt helps to bring out the flavor.
- Preset the temperature of your food dehydrator to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius).
- Spread the puree thinly onto silicone sheets and place these into the dehydrator.
- Turn on the dehydrator and dry the puree for several hours. When dry, the pieces of fruit leather will lift easily from the sheets.
- Lift the jerky from the sheets and either break it into pieces or cut into strips and roll them up to make fruit rolls.
- You can store your pumpkin jerky in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in the pantry.
Don’t Forget About The Pumpkin Seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds make a delicious snack and can be added to many different recipes, so don’t just throw them out. Here’s how to dry the pumpkin seeds ready for roasting:
- Separate the pumpkin seeds from the flesh and place them in a colander.
- Give them a good wash to remove any remaining pumpkin flesh.
- Hand dry the seeds with a paper towel.
- You can dry the seeds either in a food dehydrator at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) for one to two hours or place them on an oven tray and dry them in the oven at a very low temperature for around three to four hours. If drying in the oven, give them a stir every so often to stop them burning.
- To roast your dried seeds, toss them in some vegetable oil and add any seasoning that you like. Place them on a tray in the oven that you’ve preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) for around 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once the seeds have cooled, you can store them in an airtight container in the pantry.