How to Freeze Pumpkin & Butternut Squash

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's been three months since our move from Zagreb to Athens.

The mere fact that I have been counting the months and know exactly how many have passed since we left is a testament to the fact that things are not as easy as I thought they would be.

Adjusting has been difficult but I am happy to report that it is getting better day by day, week by week. I try to see and appreciate the small positive things that happen to me everyday, hoping all the while that at some point I will be able to feel completely at home once again. Because it might look like I returned home, to my country anyway, but I've been living away from this place for so many years, I sometimes forget that it actually is my home.

So I started driving lessons. Since I left for London to study (I am not going to say how many years ago) I was never able to get a driving license. The reasons were mostly practical. In England they drive on the wrong side of the road and the last thing a struggling student needs in London is a car (oddly enough I always had friends who owned cars hmm!). Then on to Saudi Arabia where women are forbidden to drive. Everyone moves around with personal drivers so the need never really became apparent until Zagreb where I tried and failed because the test was in Croatian and my knowledge of it is only limited to being able to order the right  cut of meat at the butchers, sometimes. So now that I am back and people speak my language why not give it a try? I passed the theory test this week and my instructor is optimistic! He believes I'll be able to take the practical exam in a couple weeks time. If you ask me, I think he is out of him mind! I mean my heart is pounding every time I step into the driver's seat and my legs are shaking for about 1 hour after I step out! How on earth will I ever be able to drive, in traffic, with the examiners sitting in the back and not faint from stress?

It's not all fear though! There is a good dose of exhilaration every time I find myself behind the wheel and I have to admit that I somehow crave this feeling the days I don't have lessons. Only this morning I caught myself practising imaginary parking manoeuvres while laying in bed, moving my feet to simulate the interchange between the clutch and the accelerator! 

So what does me learning to drive has to do with telling you how to freeze pumpkin? Nothing really only that I consider it to be one of the small positive things that get me through the days here in Athens.

Another such thing is that I now live in the same country as my parents and most importantly my parents' garden. We are only 600 km (!) away this time so they can send me vegetables and fruit from the garden. In September it was a truckload of peppers that found their way into my kitchen. Now it's pumpkins! Big, beautiful, organic pumpkins!  After strenuous negotiations we agreed on 4 (my father wanted to send me 6) and now I have to figure out what to do with them. Thankfully they last long and there is always the option to freeze them!

I am sure I am not the only one who gets mesmerised by their beautiful roundness and colour and buys big, whole pumpkins at the farmer's markets only to end up throwing half away after it's been sitting in the fridge for days without me knowing what to do with it. I feel so guilty every single time this happens! And there was no way I was ever going to throw away my dad's pumpkins!!! So I decided to freeze them!

And here's how I did it this time. It's very easy and contrary to popular belief it doesn't need so much elbow grease!

First you have to clean and cut the pumpkin.
Take a sharp knife and cut around the stem. Pull it out. This is very important because it is the stem that keeps everything together!
Then cut the pumpkin into wedges following along its natural lines. If the wedges turn out very wide, cut them in half.
Open up the wedges and remove them from the base of the pumpkin.
Then clean the inside part of the wedges cutting the fibres with the knife.
And that's it! Now you have nice, clean pumpkin wedges, easy peasy right?

The process changes a bit if you want to clean a butternut squash because of its shape. Don't be scared just cut it in two at the point where it becomes wide. Use a spoon to remove the pips and the fibres and cut it into wedges, like a small pumpkin. Cut the other part in to smaller cylinders or vertically in two or four.

From this point on you have two options.

First option: Pumpkin in Cubes. Peel the wedges with a strong vegetable peeler or a knife - be extra careful with your fingers you need all of them I am sure! and then cut the wedges in cubes.
Put the cubes in freezers bags, seal them well and put in the freezer for up to 3 months!

I like to roast pumpkin and butternut squash in the oven with a sliced red onion, olive oil, fresh sage and crumbled feta cheese so I used this method to cut  a couple of pumpkins in small cubes ready to go in the roasting pan!

Second option: Pumpkin Purée.
Place the wedges in a roasting tin.
Wrap the tin in foil and roast at 180C/350F for at least 90 minutes. Depending on your oven you might need to roast them a bit longer until they become soft like butter.
Then line a big bowl with a tea towel and scrape some cooked pumpkin flesh in it.
Now comes the part where all those dumbbell exercises and Pilates classes will come in handy. You need to get all the water out of the pumpkin. So squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Your biceps will burn but your pumpkin purée is going to be perfect!
Store the purée in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months!  

That's it!

Easy wasn't it?

No more wasted pumpkin just a freezer full of orange goodness!

And in my next post I will give you a very easy and delicious recipe for Pumpkin Soup with a fragrant twist!.

So stay tuned!