Warm fall flavors are one of the best parts about the weather turning colder. And no single flavor exemplifies autumn more than pumpkin. It can be enjoyed in so many ways – flavoring your coffee, in warm baked goods, as your evening meal and especially for dessert. So when a major producer of canned pumpkin says there's going to be a shortage after this Thanksgiving, there's good reason to panic.
Instead of hyperventilating and/or hoarding as many cans as you can find, try our more productive tips to get you through this holiday season and beyond.
- Find alternative sources for canned pumpkin. Your local grocery store might have a limited supply later this season but try specialty grocers, bargain supermarkets or even dollar stores to see if they have some available. Typically, you can keep cans of low-acid foods such as pumpkin for a year or longer.
- Use fresh pumpkins now while they're in season. Just remember, that big pumpkin sitting on the front porch is probably not the kind you want to eat. Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins are bred for size and shape, not taste. Instead, try something smaller and firmer. A few common varietals you might come across: Baby Pam, Small Sugar or New England Pie.
- Any fresh pumpkin you can't use now, you can freeze and keep for about three to six months. Freeze in chunks or as puree. To make the puree, cook the pumpkin using one of several methods until tender, then blend in a food processor until smooth.
- Use seasonal alternatives such as butternut squash or sweet potatoes in savory recipes. Both alternatives are healthy and flavorful. Pumpkin is known for its high vitamin A content, but both sweet potatoes and butternut squash have even more. They also both have more vitamin C and fiber, and sweet potatoes have about twice as much protein.
- Instead of baking several pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, make just one and then try another traditional dessert. This not only saves your canned pumpkin, but you get to try something new and your family may discover a new favorite! Try an easy apple crisp, a crowd-pleasing spiced pound cake or a classic pecan pie.
- Plan ahead and save your pumpkin seeds for planting in the late spring. It's best to plant seeds straight into the ground, but you need to wait until the ground is warm enough, usually late May or early June.