What To Do with Fresh Pumpkins

October brings many things and is also a month of memory for me.  My grandmother Lupe for whom this blog is in honor of was born in October so this month always makes me think of her.  It is also the time in Los Angeles, when pumpkins make their way into the markets for Halloween.  More and more I see the heirloom ones, all knobby and in a beautiful array of colors popping up everywhere.  I love the Cinderella pumpkins for all their squished beauty and wish I had had one as a child to dream about turning it into a magic coach to take me to the ball.  The one’s I gravitate most to in the stores though are the big regular Halloween pumpkins.

When I go to the market with the grandkids, they see jack-o-lanterns and I see pies, pasta, ravioli filling, grilled pumpkin in salads, soups, empanadas, muffins, and more.  The season is brutally short though.  I can never find a single pumpkin past Halloween and I wonder where they go.  Solution:  buy them all at once!

As money allows, I tend to buy up as many big pumpkins as I can and fill the freezer.  There are a TON of recipes on the internet for things to do with pumpkin and it just makes sense to me to put up a little money upfront and a lot of work in order to have pumpkin in my pantry and freezer all year round.  Why buy canned when you can preserve your own?  It’s economical and it makes sense, especially if you love to cook.

My favorite thing to do with pumpkin is make empanadas.  The filling is simple and delicious.  I’m sure there are many different ways to do it, but this is mine.

Cinnamon-Steamed Pumpkin for Empanadas

1 large pumpkin
2 cinnamon sticks

In a large stock pot with a steamer basket, add just enough water to come below the steamer basket.  Add the cinnamon sticks and turn on the heat to low.  Add chunks of un-peeled pumpkin to the steamer basket and cover.

Depending on how big your chunks are (I tend to cut the pumpkin into quarters because it’s easier) the steaming can take anywhere from 20 minutes if you have small bits to a few hours with the big pieces.

Keep adding water as it evaporates – that’s important.  You want to keep the cinnamon steam going.

Steam until the pumpkin flesh is translucent and soft.

Once it cools you can just scoop along the rind with a spoon and get all the pulp into a large mixing bowl.

Pumpkin Empanada filling

Not measured, everything is to taste for me with this.

Pumpkin pulp
Sugar – to taste
Cinnamon – to taste
Dash Ginger
Dash Mace

Mash the pumpkin pulp until is is smooth.  Add sugar, powdered cinnamon, ginger and mace to taste.

That’s it!  Simple, delicious and it fills the empanadas nicely.  You want to be sure to strain it though and not get the residual juice into your empanadas or they will be soggy.  I use the juice for liquados or put it into cakes, etc.  It freezes nicely too.

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