We WORKED on Saturday. My goodness, we got a lot done, but my body is still trying to recover! It felt so good to get so many Fall chores done, though.
When we let the girls pick out pumpkins this year, we knew they would eventually become food. At first my oldest was pretty upset when she discovered that I planned to chop up and cook her masterpiece, but when I listed everything it could become…she made me promise that her pumpkin would become PIE. Yes ma’am!
After a good scrubbing, and a lot of full-arm-rotation-hacking with a cleaver, the girls’ pumpkins were de-seeded and loaded into the oven and stock pots to cook. (And call me a heretic, but nobody really likes pumpkin seeds around here, so I didn’t bother spending the hour it would have taken to prepare them for roasting!)
(I filled two trays like this, plus an extra-large stock pot)
While the stockpot full of pumpkin pieces and a bit of water cooked the squash in a portion of the time it took in the oven, I preferred the roasted squash. It came out drier and denser, with a nice color and a richer flavor. I roasted the piece skin-side-up, but had already flipped them over by the time I took this picture. Oh, and yes: these are pumpkin patch “Jack-o-lantern” pumpkins. Undoubtedly, sugar pumpkins or another variety would yield a better end result, but we’ve been cooking and eating these for at least a decade now, and no one ever says no to our pumpkin bread! (Well, OK, the “we” here more accurately refers to my twin sister, but yes: she’s been doing this for a looong time.)
After the pumpkins were cooked and cooled, I scooped the flesh into an enormous bowl and used my stick blender to puree it all. After that, the puree was loaded into a colander to drain for a little bit- remember, these pumpkins ARE more watery, and if you steam the pumpkin it only exacerbates the condition. About 15 cups of pumpkin puree was loaded into Ziploc baggies and laid flat to freeze in the chest freezer, and the rest was cooked on the stove with some sugar and spices into a thick pumpkin butter. From everything I’ve read, pumpkin butter is unsafe to can at home, so I loaded it into hot, sterilized half-pint jars and left them outside to cool before I put them in the freezer. Perhaps I should have put them directly in the freezer, but I wanted to get them as cool as possible before I loaded them in. You’ll see why.
While I spent my morning dealing with 30 pounds of squash, the husband tackled the soggy leaves outside. He blew everything into the lawn, and then ran the mower over them (with the blades high) to collect the now-mulched leaves into the bag. He ended up filling our FOUR spare garbage cans! Whew. I’ll use some to mulch our spring bulbs, some to “lasagna mulch” some particularly weedy patches, and leave whatever is left in the cans to compost down into leaf mold. (Leaves shouldn’t go in regular compost piles, from what I understand- once wet, they become a soggy, impenetrable mass that is best left to decompose on it’s own, and they’ll take about 2 years.)
After all this, I left shortly after we got the girls in bed and picked up an order of chicken from a case-sale company. About $52 for a 40 pound case of hormone-free, natural chicken breasts. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but those monsters were HUGE. Like, 2 breasts weighed about 3 pounds. I spent 2 hours processing the chicken, into the late hours of the night, but now I have 5 pounds of ground chicken, 10 pounds of whole breasts, 15 pounds of boiled and cubed chicken, and 10 pounds of cubed raw chicken, all in the freezer. (See why I didn’t want piping hot pumpkin butter in there?!) I checked the next morning, and everything was nicely frozen, so that was a relief.