Pumpkin is one of my favorite vegetables.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin bread.  Great golden goodness! And a pretty yummy way to get beta carotene and extra fiber!

There are just a few of problems with my pumpkin obsession:

1) canned pumpkin is getting expensive 2) we are now finding out that canned pumpkin isn’t really pumpkin but a mix of squash like Butternut squash and 3) opening cans of pumpkin when I need only a small amount is that  I could not use up the whole can before it went bad.  What’s a pumpkin lover to do? What if you are like me and love the taste of fresh (not canned) pumpkin?

Dehydrate!

As it turns out, dehydrating pumpkin is very easy to do. Right after Halloween the jack-o-lantern pumpkins go on clearance. Last year, I got mine for free from a church that was setting up for its Christmas tree fundraiser.

It must have been over 50 pounds of pumpkin!

Dehydrated pumpkin takes up less room in your pantry and you can re-hydrate just a little for a smoothie, or a several cups for pies on Thanksgiving or for soup.  Done properly, it should keep for a year, maybe longer.  It tastes much fresher and lighter than canned pumpkin too.

Note: you can use either the big jack-o-lantern pumpkins but they will have more water.  The smaller pie pumpkins are more dense.

It looks like a lot of steps, but it is easy and you don’t can do other things while it is roasting and dehydrating.

STEP 1 – PREPARE the PUMPKIN

Wash the outside of the pumpkin.  Cut into large pieces.  Scrape off the seeds.  Saves the seeds for roasting and boiling if your family likes pumpkin seeds.  Line a roasting or jelly roll pan with foil and then spray with spray oil or use vegetable oil.  This is just to keep the pumpkin from sticking to the pan.  Add a little water to the pan, and cover the pumpkin with foil if you wish.

Some advise to cube or grate the pumpkin, and then blanche it, but I found that roasting it is the easiest and least time intensive.  Have you ever tried to peel raw pumpkin??

Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin – If you carved it the day of Halloween, it will be fresh enough still to be roasted that night.  If it’s been longer than a few hours, I compost, not cook it.

Pumpkins washed, seeded and ready to go in the oven.
Pumpkins washed, seeded and ready to go in the oven. A major water leak and repair doesn’t stop me!

STEP 2 – ROAST the PUMPKIN

Roast the pumpkin at 325 or 350F until it can be easily pricked with a fork.  This will take at least an hour, longer if you are using big pumpkins.  If you are using a very large pumpkin, I scrape off the cooked pumpkin, and then put the uncooked part back in the oven.  Don’t worry about being exact.  Cooked pumpkin is very soft and has a nice golden color.  It will be lighter than the canned pumpkin (which is really a mix of squash varieties).

Cooked pumpkin is a light golden brown.
The stringy pumpkin is the big over sized pumpkin. It is golden brown and soft when cooked.

STEP 3 – DRAIN COOKED PUMPKIN 

Scoop the cooked pumpkin from the skins. Drain the pumpkin with a mesh strainer.  Line with some cheese cloth if it is very watery.  Remove as much of the pumpkin juice as you can.  (You can put the pumpkin juice in your compost bucket or save it for vegetable broth or a smoothie!)

OPTION: At this point you can freeze the pumpkin.  Just put it in the size container you’d like – ice cube trays if you want it for smoothies, or in 1 cup containers or small sandwich bags for pies, soups or other dishes.  If using the sandwich bags, make sure you then place these in a larger freezer bag to protect against freezer burn.

STEP 4 – PUREE 

You can skip this step and dry cooked chunks of pumpkin, but the puree is easier to do.  You can mash it manually, or puree it in a food processor.

Pumpkin puree
Puree the pumpkin

STEP 5 – DEHYDRATE

Using the fruit leather tray OR a fine mesh tray for your dehydrator, spread the pureed pumpkin in a thin layer. Try to do it as evenly as you can, and not thick, about 1/8”.  Too thick and it won’t dehydrate well.   Dry according to your dehydrator’s instruction manual.  It will likely take at least 8 -12 hours to dry.  Make sure it is dried thoroughly, or it will not keep well and will mold.  You cannot over dry it!

PUMPKIN LEATHER OPTION: You can season the cooked and pureed pumpkin with a little sugar or honey and spices and make pumpkin leather at this point. Dry on the fruit leather tray!

Pumpkin puree

Pumpkin puree

Brittle pumpkin puree
It will be brittle when dry.

STEP 6 – MAKING PUMPKIN POWDER

When the pumpkin puree is dry, it will be very brittle. Break it up and put it in a blender.  Blend it down as much as you can.  You will likely have little pieces and that is fine.  If your blender jar is plastic, the pumpkin pieces may scratch the blender.  I got a glass blender at a garage sale just for blending powders like this.

Dried pumpkin puree in a blender

Pumpkin powder in a blender

STEP 7 – STORING PUMPKIN POWDER

Almost done! You can store your pumpkin powder in a heavy duty plastic bag with an oxygen absorber if you will use it right away.   I dry can mine with a vacuum sealer and oxygen absorbers. To use it, I pry open the seal, take out what I need, then re-vacuum seal it.  So far, it has kept very well for over a year.  When I rehydrate it for pies or cooking, it tastes as fresh as the day I dried it!

Little jar with a funnel on top

I use a canning funnel to pour my pumpkin powder into canning jars. This huge pumpkin dried down fit in this little jar!

COOKING WITH YOUR DEHYDRATED PUMPKIN

Powdered pumpkin is pretty easy to use.  I use about 1/3 cup of powder to about 1 cup warm water.  I let it sit for about 15 minutes and let the pumpkin absorb the water.  I add extra water or pumpkin powder to get the consistency that I like.  It will be a little chunky, so I buzz it for a few seconds with a stick blender. Then follow your favorite pumpkin recipe.  Since you are cooking or baking with fresh pumpkin, the pumpkin taste and color will be lighter than canned.

For Smoothies – I love pumpkin smoothies!  To make a smoothie, I just add some water, milk, or soy milk to the pumpkin and let it rehydrate. Warm up the liquid if you want a warm smoothie.  What about using apple cider to rehydrate the pumpkin?   I add cinnamon, apple, nutmeg, ginger and a dash of cloves and my favorite protein powder (Life Shake by Shaklee) and then I blend it!

I’d love to hear how dehydrating pumpkin worked for you!  What did you cook with it?  Post your comments and tips below!