Friday, September 21, 2012

Slick Squash and Pumpkin Tricks

Pumpkin Time!

OK, Fall’s upon us and pumpkins are in the field.  When you start thinking of jack-o-lanterns and such, set aside a few extra pumpkins to dehydrate.  In the past, I peeled and sliced my pumpkin, blanched or cooked it, then dehydrated it. 

However, recently I purchased a CD with information on food preservation from the 1850’s to around 1940 or so.  It’s been a lot of fun reading the material. I recognize that some food and health practices of our ancestors were not always that healthy or good for us, but some of their methods are spot on! 

I’ve really become fascinated with how people did things before the advent of electricity.  I think if you don’t have a fancy electric dehydrator, you might be interested in the methods described below for dehydrating pumpkin.


Excerpt from a 1917 booklet

War Food: Practical and Economical Methods of Keeping Vegetables, Fruits, and Meats 

  • Cut in halves, peel and take out the seeds and the fiber.
  • Cut across so as to form rings.
  • String on a clean broomstick or something of that sort.
  • Put it in the sun or over the stove, protected from dust and flies by cheesecloth.
  • When thoroughly dry, store in paper sacks.
This led me to a bit more research.  I’ve included the internet links with the variations of how dehydrating pumpkins was addressed by early settlers and Native Americans. 

Native American Link with all sorts of interesting info:

  • Slice pumpkin into rings about 1/2-inch thick.
  • Remove seeds.
  • Place slices on a screen or net and place in a sunny spot for 2-3 days or until dried.
  • These slices may then be stored and kept for stews, soups, or puddings. 
Folks from the Ozarks and Appalachian Mountains:

  • Before the frost, the pumpkins were gathered. They were cut in one-inch rings and hung over a stick in a dry place. Many folks hung the pumpkin rings over the fireplace to dry in the late fall.
    • LINDA’S NOTE: I would recommend rings no larger than ½ inch in order to assure more rapid and even dehydrating.
  • When they were thoroughly dry, they were put in clean cloth sacks and stored in a dry, warm place.
  • Pumpkin butter was made like peach and apple butter — sweetened with sorghum and flavored with allspice, then canned in wax sealing jars. Pumpkin butter??? YES!
* Many regional dialects originally pronounced pumpkin as punkin.

Great Plains Pioneers:

…Winter was coming to Baca County, Colorado, where my father and mother, Alfred and Eva Meltabarger, had claimed land in 1913 and where they raised 12 children. Food preservation was crucial to our survival."

  • Now it was time to dry pumpkin rings. Earlier my brothers had hauled the pumpkins to a bin where the broomcorn seed was stored, in a rock building where they wouldn't freeze. I lifted the pumpkins from the box, handing them to my sisters. The firm ones were put in tubs for Mother at the house; the ones "going soft" were stacked for my brothers to take to the hogs. We girls broke a couple open for the chickens to pick.
  • In our dugout, Mother sliced the pumpkins in thin rings. I was big enough to peel the rings without breaking them; my sister Wanda cut the pulp from the inside; and sister Iva cubed rings accidentally broken too badly to hang on the wire. The broken pieces were put to cook; they would be made into butter or pies.
    • Linda’s Note: These folks peeled their pumpkin before drying them.
  • A single slash thru the ring let us hang the pumpkin on a wire stretched behind the kitchen stove. A towel was spread over the rings and they were left there until they were dry.
    • Linda’s Note: Good idea!  If you don’t want to hang them on a broom or dowel, a strong wire near the ceiling would be just the thing.
  • The dried pumpkin went into sacks to join the corn and beans in the back room. Thru the winter the rings were broken into pieces to be soaked overnight and cooked for butter or pies. Dried pumpkin had a slightly different taste from fresh pumpkin, but it certainly did brighten our winter and early spring meals.
Evallee Myers Forpahl - Springfield, Colorado


  1. Good post. We just dehydrated spaghetti squash in the Excaliber, acorn is next. The pumpkins are not ready yet but in case we are ever without electricity, this is good info.

  2. Pumpkin butter, that sounds good!

  3. Our spaghetti squash came out really great! I can't believe how sweet it is when dried. Had we mixed in some cinnamon and clove it would be a super snack all by itself!

    1. So glad it's working out for you. Looks like I won't be getting any pumpkins until the end of October. I can't wait to put some up. Mike's looking forward to pumpkin pies!