I’ve mentioned that my family and I have been able to make pickles, can jalapenos, and make quick fresh salsa this summer using fresh ingredients.
Our garden is no longer nearly as large as it had been in the past since we moved last year, but we have still been able to enjoy jalapenos, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, green beans, sugar snap peas, and strawberries from the plants we have planted in pots on our deck.
We were even able to get a few zucchinis from a zucchini plant in a large pot on our patio. My daughters were so happy we had actually gotten a zucchini from a potted plant that they invented “Zucchini Harvest Day” on the day we picked the first zucchini.
It’s now time to enjoy pumpkins.
We don’t have pumpkins in our potted garden, but my grandparents recently gifted my daughters with two pumpkins from their garden. My grandma mentioned these pumpkins are specifically grown for cooking.
Since we had written “make a pie” on our fall activity list, we decided to attempt to make a fresh pumpkin pie using these pumpkins.
Maybe we’ve been doing too many scientific experiments lately because when I mentioned this would be our “grand pumpkin experiment”, one of my daughters reminded me that I needed to follow the steps of the scientific method in order to call it an experiment.
“I’m a scientist…” from the book Jobs of a Preschooler
Well, my objective was to make pumpkin puree and create an edible pumpkin pie using the pumpkins we had been given.
My hypothesis was that we would successfully create pumpkin puree, and the pie would be edible but would not taste or look good, yet we would still have fun even if it didn’t turn out well. At least that way, I would either be right with my hypothesis or pleasantly surprised with the results.
I wasn’t sure what materials or procedure we needed to follow to make the pumpkin puree, though, so I did some online research.
We started by cutting the pumpkins open and scooping out the insides.
As one of my daughters and I were scooping out the insides, my other daughter separated all of the seeds from the guts of the pumpkins.
One of the ideas I found online for making pumpkin puree was to cut the pumpkin into strips and bake it. We decided to try that.
I had the pieces sitting with the peel side down, but they started burning, so I rotated them a few times while they were baking. I removed them from the oven when they were soft enough to peel and mash.
One of the other ideas I saw online for making pumpkin puree was to remove the peel, cut the pumpkin into cubes, and boil the pieces. We decided to try that, too.
This technique reminded me of a combination of cutting a watermelon and making mashed potatoes. I used a colander to remove the water once all of the pumpkin pieces were soft. Then, my daughter mashed them in a large bowl using a potato masher.
We had more pumpkin pieces baking in the oven than boiling on the stove since I couldn’t fit as many pieces in the large pot as I could on the cookie sheets.
Our observations were that the boiled pumpkin seemed to soften quicker than the baked pumpkin. We were also able to mash it sooner since the peel had already been removed. I had to let the baked pumpkin cool for a little bit before I could remove the peel and mash it. I apparently didn’t let it cool long enough because I still managed to burn my fingers a little as I was removing the peel.
The mashed baked pumpkin pieces seemed more stringy and less moist than the mashed boiled pumpkin pieces. I was concerned the boiled pumpkin puree was going to be too moist for future recipes (especially if frozen first), so I ended up mixing the baked pumpkin puree and the (drained) boiled pumpkin puree together. I divided the puree into containers, so it could cool in the refrigerator.
Once we had our pumpkin puree, we were ready to make the pumpkin pie. I found a recipe on allrecipes for homemade fresh pumpkin pie using 2 cups of the pumpkin puree.
We read through the recipe, made sure we had all of the ingredients, and then watched a video on Youtube to see how to cut shortening into flour using the two butter knives method.
We successfully made the pie crust, but I managed to accidentally tear it apart as I was trying to put it into the greased pie pan. So, we rolled the dough flat again, placed the greased pie pan upside down on it, cut around the edges, and carefully peeled it away from the board we had used to roll it. Once peeled from the board, we flipped the pie pan with the dough in it. From there, we pushed the dough flat and pinched along the top edges.
It wasn’t the most gorgeous pie crust, but I considered it a success since I was able to get it into the pie pan without it falling apart again.
We had looked through the list of ingredients before making the pie, but we didn’t realize we only had about 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg instead of the 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg suggested in the pumpkin pie recipe. So, we used 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and we decided to increase the amount of ground cinnamon to 1 teaspoon.
We also didn’t use an electric mixer or immersion blender like the recipe had recommended. Instead, we mixed the filling by hand with a large plastic spoon.
Once mixed well, we poured the mixture into the pan. We actually had a little bit of extra mixture that didn’t fit in the pan, which I disposed of. We created a heart with the small amount of left over pie crust we had. Then, the pie was carefully placed in the preheated oven. I was thankful I managed to get it into the oven without spilling any of it.
The result was that cooked pumpkin pie actually turned out much better than I had expected, so my hypothesis was wrong. It may not be the best looking pumpkin pie, but it didn’t look horrible and everyone in my family thought it tasted great. In fact, the entire pie was eaten in less than twenty-four hours by my family of four.
In conclusion, we were able to successfully make pumpkin puree and an edible, delicious pumpkin pie using the pumpkins my daughters were gifted. We were able to do this by researching information, following (and adjusting) directions, and working together.
But, we didn’t stop there.
We didn’t let those seeds my daughter had separated at the beginning go to waste. We soaked them overnight and then made two different kinds of baked pumpkin seeds. One included a mixture of butter, sugar, and cinnamon and the other was just salt.
When the pumpkin puree was completely cooled, I divided it two cups at a time into six separate labeled freezer bags. I’m curious to see how well it will work in future recipes once it has been frozen. Hopefully, we will be able to replicate 6 more delicious pumpkin pies within the next few months with this puree.
We had made a total of 15 cups of pumpkin puree from the two pumpkins. We used 2 cups for the pumpkin pie and packaged 12 cups in the freezer bags to freeze, so we had a total of 1 cup pumpkin puree remaining. Since I didn’t want to waste the extra pumpkin puree, I found a pumpkin muffins with cinnamon streusel topping recipe from allrecipes that required only 1 cup of pumpkin puree.
We made a total of 18 muffins using the recipe. They didn’t hold together very well when I removed them from the muffin pans, but they still tasted pretty good.
Do you have a pumpkin recipe you’d like to share?
“I’m a chef…” from the book Jobs of a Preschooler
Check these out for more science fun.
Check these out for more fun as a chef.