How to Freeze Pumpkin [and Winter Squash, too!]

The weather this week has left no mistake that the transition from fall to winter is underway.  Two days without making it above freezing has effectively put an end to just about everything left in the garden.  I have also been making this same steady transition, raking up the leaves and cleaning up the yard for winter.  A few weeks ago I made the tough decision that it was time to start pulling all the pumpkins from our front steps and deck before the the temperature started to drop so low they could freeze and start to spoil.  

What is one to do with those pumpkins, now that they can't sit on the front steps anymore?  Freeze them, of course!  Freezing is the easiest way to prepare and preserve pumpkin for future cooking and baking (and fresh frozen pumpkin will taste better than store-bought canned pumpkin every time).
While you can cook and eat any kind of pumpkin or squash, there are some varieties that are more suitable for cooking and eating than others.  Your best bet is to get your hands on a pie pumpkin, which have better flavor, texture, and color than field pumpkins (the kind you typically see used for jack-o- lanterns).  You can also use this same process with any winter squash that you enjoy.    
After washing the outside of the pumpkin to remove any dirt, start by breaking off the stem, and then cut the pumpkin in half with a strong, sharp knife to expose the seed cavity. 
Using a large spoon, scoop, or other metal kitchen utensil with a sharp edge, scrape out the "guts," leaving only the firm pumpkin flesh.  Be sure to separate the seeds for toasting later!
Place the pumpkin halves upside down in a glass baking dish and add about a quarter inch of water to the bottom of the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees until the pumpkin is soft (a fork will easily pierce the pumpkin skin, which will have started to brown), about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and density of the pumpkin.
The pumpkin will now easily scrape right off the pumpkin skin with a spoon.  Scoop all of the pumpkin into a bowl and use an immersion blender to puree the pumpkin until smooth.
Finally, measure and package the pumpkin puree in freezer-safe containers (I prefer freezer bags because they can freeze flat and are more air tight, but plastic containers will also work).

You now have a freezer stocked with fresh frozen pumpkin for winter soups, breads, and baking!

As I mentioned, you can use this same process to prepare and freeze winter squash.  Not only is it a great way to preserve the harvest, but it is also a huge time saver, especially if you plan to do a lot of cooking and baking with squash or pumpkin during the winter months.  Just the other night, I pulled out the last two bags of butternut squash from last year and made a batch of this soup for our lunches this week in only 15 minutes (side note: I added a couple of pinches of cinnamon and cardamom to the soup this time and it was delicious!).

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