Halloween is right around the corner, which means that store shelves are overflowing with beautifully bright, orange pumpkins! Billions of glorious gourds are produced each year, with most individuals using them for Fall decor. What you may not realize is that these giant fruits can also serve as a fantastic source of Vitamin A and C and they are filled with fiber!
Thus, it can be extremely beneficial to stock up on this winter squash to use in your regular diet. Can you freeze a whole pumpkin? We have the details on how you can reach your squash storage goals!
Pumpkin is an extremely healthy and versatile food that can last for long periods of time in room temperature conditions as well as in the fridge and freezer. However, it is not recommended that you freeze a whole pumpkin.
Instead, you must clean the exterior and then remove the guts from the interior. Finally, you will need to cut it up into bite sized pieces. Then, you can decide whether you want to store it raw or freeze after blanching or cooking and pureeing.
No matter which method you choose, freezing is a wonderful way to elongate the life of your pumpkin for up to a year!
- Freezing Pumpkins
- Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
- Freezing Pumpkin Products
- Defrosting Frozen Pumpkin
- Final Thoughts
- Related Guides
According to food safety experts at Michigan State University, a whole pumpkin that is free of blemishes or bruises can last up to six months at temperatures between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This is just above the level that your refrigerator is set at — 40 degrees. Unfortunately though, due to the extremely high water content (90%) and the hollow nature of this Fall fruit, it is not advised to freeze whole pumpkins.
However, pumpkins can be frozen when cut into pieces. Moreover, they can be left raw or you can choose to cook or blanch them to extend their freezer life. When proper preparation methods are utilized, winter squash varieties, like pumpkins, can last up to a year while frozen.
Method 1: Raw Preparation Of Whole Pumpkins To Freeze
The first step in any method you choose is acquiring an optimal pumpkin. “When looking for suitable pie pumpkins avoid bruises, cracks and soft spots and stick to pumpkins in the range of four to eight pounds; they will yield the best pulp.”
Second, wash the whole pumpkin in clean, cool water. Third, cut into the gourd, remove the stem and seeds and slice the pumpkin flesh into small pieces. The ideal size is two to three centimeters. This is your stopping point if you want to freeze the raw pieces of the whole pumpkin.
Method 2: Blanching The Pumpkin
Blanching is a cooking method that involves scalding the exterior of a fruit or vegetable for a specific time frame and then transferring it into cold water. Researchers at Clemson University have found that “blanching stops enzyme actions which otherwise cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
In addition, blanching removes some surface dirt and microorganisms, brightens color and helps slow vitamin losses. It also wilts greens and softens some vegetables (broccoli, asparagus) and makes them easier to pack.”
Therefore, if you would like to maintain the overall integrity of the pumpkin’s original texture while simultaneously extending the shelf life, this is a fantastic method to use. Pumpkins require three to four minutes of blanch time when boiled. In contrast, if you choose a steam blanching method, expect it to take about 50% longer time.
Once soft, remove them from the boiling water or steam.
Following the water bath, evenly place the pumpkin pieces on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Slide this into the freezer to allow them to be flash frozen.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you blanch and freeze the pumpkin flesh, make sure to prepare the whole pumpkin as directed in steps one through three of Method #1.
Packaging Pumpkin For Freezer Storage
For Methods #1 and #2, sort the pieces into your desired serving sizes and vacuum seal them in freezer safe bags. As with all foods, oxidation can cause expedited spoilage. Therefore, the less air present, the longer your pumpkin will last.
When prepared raw, pumpkin will last six to eight months in the freezer. Conversely, the blanched products can span up to a year.
Method 3: Cooking The Pumpkin
This last method will allow users to prepare pureed pumpkin for recipes like pies, soups and breads. Again, follow the first three steps listed in the Raw Preparation section. Once the pieces are ready, the National Center For Home Food Preservation advises that you cook the pumpkin pieces until they are soft.
This can be accomplished in the oven, by boiling them like potatoes or even with a pressure cooker. Once this is complete, remove the rind and puree the pumpkin. You do have the option of cooking the whole pumpkin and then cutting up the pieces before you freeze it, or you can conduct the preparation first.
The end result will be the same — a pumpkin puree.
Once you have a smooth consistency, allow the pureed pumpkin to cool and then store it in a freezer safe container. Remember that foods expand in the freezer, so ensure that you have at least half an inch between the top of the pumpkin mixture and the lid. Label the container with a date and place it in the freezer.
Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
Everyone knows that carrots are good for your eyes! That same beta-carotene that brings such a high dose of vitamin A is also in pumpkins. Just one cup of pumpkin brings 245% of your daily recommended value of this essential nutrient.
Moreover, it is brimming with antioxidants and brings quite the immunity boost. Best of all, this fruit is fat and cholesterol free and it is high in fiber!
While we are all accustomed to the sugar and cinnamon filled pie that graces our table every Thanksgiving, you can also use this winter squash in soups, stews, breads, smoothies, ravioli, and even mac and cheese!
Moreover, just because you can’t freeze the whole pumpkin doesn’t meant that you can’t use the majority of the parts of this nutritious fruit! The pumpkin seeds can serve as a tasty snack that is full of manganese, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
Throw them on a salad, in your trail mix or even season them sweetly and top off your oatmeal with this healthy garnish.
Additionally, it is also a great supplement for your pets! When dogs have digestive upset, give them a spoonful or two of pureed pumpkin. It can cure constipation and diarrhea issues and that is all thanks to that hefty dose of fiber!
It also helps their eyes and gives their coats a luxurious shine. Better yet, our pups love a refreshingly, cold treat on a hot day! Freeze individual pumpkin bites in a silicone tray and then pop them out when it is time to reward your furry friend!
Freezing Pumpkin Products
Pumpkin pie is a staple product around the holidays, and thankfully, you can make it in advance and freeze it! Simply bake your pie and allow it to cool. Then, proceed to double wrap it — first in cling wrap and then in aluminum foil.
Lastly, slide it into a freezer safe ziplock bag and place it in the freezer. Remember to remove as much air as possible! If kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit consistently, it can stay fresh for up to nine months.
This time frame decreases compared to the pieces of the whole pumpkin because there are an array of ingredients, all that have different freezing recommendations. However, this is a type of pie that is optimal for freezing before or after cooking!
IMPORTANT NOTE: While vacuum sealing is always the best bet for the preservation of foods, it is not always ideal for maintaining the appearance of the dishes. Many times the crust will crumble under pressure. If you were hoping for a picture perfect pie this Thanksgiving, then avoid this method.
Just like the pumpkin puree, prepare your soup and once cooled, place individual portions into rigid containers. Don’t forget to leave enough space at the top for the food to expand. Label them with a date and use within three months.
The best part about pumpkin based soups is that you can utilize almost all of the parts of the whole pumpkin, including the seeds, and freeze them until you are ready to eat!
Similar to the pie, wait for the bread to cool and then wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap. Follow this with a layer of aluminum foil. However, make sure to slice the bread first, unless you plan to use the whole loaf in one sitting.
Finally, slide it into a freezer safe ziplock bag and label it. This will last approximately six months.
Defrosting Frozen Pumpkin
Unfortunately, the freezer gets a bad rap for changing the consistency and texture of many foods. It is important to remember that a gradual increase in temperatures can help to preserve those desired qualities.
Thus, place your pumpkin product in the fridge a day or two prior to cook time. This slow thaw period can help to maintain the original state that the pumpkin was in when you put in the freezer those many months ago!
While you cannot freeze a whole pumpkin, this is still a tremendously healthy fruit that you can prepare and freeze for extended periods of time. In the fridge, pumpkin will only last three to five months whereas the freezer can allow you to safely store products for up to a year (when you pick the right method for storage).
Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for over a decade.