by Tammy Taylor
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This year I planted heirloom sugar pumpkins in my garden and when it was time to harvest them I knew I’d first be able to enjoy them for a bit as decoration. I love the way those little pumpkins looked propped on our cast-iron Franklin stove. But several days later I was in the kitchen enjoying the last of my favorite pumpkin granola, and I knew that since I planted those delicious pumpkins for use in my granola it was time to cook those babies down into puree. But we live in NE Texas, it’s hot and humid in the summer so whenever possible I keep the oven off in the house during those hot days. Thankfully I have a secret weapon for keeping that summer heat outside where it belongs, even while cooking! Now I’m about to put my secret weapon to very good use while preparing my pumpkin puree.
My secret weapon of choice? My * Solar Oven! I use my solar oven in both summer and winter seasons since you don’t need it to be hot outside – all you need is SUN. Today the forecasters called for the skies to be mostly sunny, but for some reason cloud forecasts are seldom accurate in our part of the world & it ended up being mostly cloudy with occasional breaks in the clouds for the sun to peak through. Although the cloud cover will keep the oven from reaching hotter temps, thankfully since I’m just making puree I can still use my solar oven today. Temperatures for cooking pumpkin shouldn’t be too finicky about the specific heat, I just need it to get hot enough to cook it until it’s soft.
So now I’ll prepare my home-grown produce to feed us. I took my pretty little pumpkins and cut them in half and scooped out the seeds. Since this is an heirloom pumpkin variety I saved some of those seeds to plant next year – heirloom seeds will produce the same results year after year whereas seeds from hybrid varieties will not come back true to the mother plant.
Then I cut those pumpkins into chunks that would fit into a covered black enamelware pan. I was able to squeeze an amazing amount of pumpkin into that one pan!
I took the pan out to my solar oven, placed it inside and pointed the reflectors toward the sun. I know which way the sun will track throughout the day and I usually point the reflectors just a little ahead of the sun to give me a little longer sun-exposure time before I need to adjust the oven to properly track the sun. Using this method I usually only need to adjust the oven once or twice while cooking.
By the time I got the pumpkin prepared and got it into the solar oven it was just past noon. The cloud cover kept the oven from getting as hot as it could with more sun but the internal temperatures still quickly shot up to over 200 degrees and stayed pretty consistent from then on. I allowed the oven to stay out for about 6 hrs due to the reduced sun exposure before I brought my pan of pumpkin into the house to see if it was cooked through. A quick prick with a fork confirmed I was ready to go.
I let the pumpkin cool a bit and then I scooped the cooked pumpkin flesh from the tough skin and placed the pumpkin in a large metal bowl. When all the pumpkin was removed I used my stick blender to puree the pumpkin since my blender is
crap not very good at pureeing. (I’ve got my eyes on this * Ninja Master Prep since it gets great reviews so maybe next time this part will be more fun for me!) Although the stick blender didn’t puree my pumpkin completely smooth I think it will still do great in my pumpkin granola.
Now that my pumpkin is pureed I measured it into 2-cup servings and placed those measured portions into plastic sandwich bags, then placed them in my freezer. After they are frozen solid I move those sandwich bags into a gallon freezer bag and label ‘2-CUPS PUMPKIN PUREE‘ with the date and place it all back into my freezer.
Now when I’m in the mood to make my favorite pumpkin granola I pull out one of these pre-measured bags of puree the night before and place it in my fridge. The next day the puree will thawed and I can proceed with my granola recipe as usual. I love that I’m able to grow this important & healthy ingredient right here in my own garden, producing no waste to go to the landfill. And I’ve even been able to cook the pumpkin using no purchased energy and with no heat added to the house. Now that’s what I call a win/win!
You can see our other SOLAR cooking articles here
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