I’ve had this beautiful pumpkin (a Porcelain Doll, I believe) sitting in my sunroom ever since I picked it up at the local pumpkin patch in October. It lasted through Halloween and even Thanksgiving, but finally started showing some splotches on its beigey-pink skin this week… a sure sign that it might soon turn into this squash I’d found in my kitchen a few weeks ago.
I should’ve weighed this baby before I cut it open, but as you can see, it was quite a biggie. I’m rather relieved the hubby was around that morning when I decided to make pumpkin puree, because there was no way I could’ve wielded a knife without losing a few fingers in the process!
Aside from the initial knife wrangling (which you won’t have to deal with unless you, too, like to buy pumpkins that weigh more than your pets), the rest of the process is pretty painless. Pumpkin puree is so simple to make from scratch and far superior to the stuff you can buy in a can. It’s more cost-effective, too; a small sugar pumpkin (basically the Mini Me of your Halloween carving pumpkin) yields more puree than a 15-ounce can for less cost.
Sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins) tend to be the varieties typically used for pumpkin puree, but you can use any pumpkin or orange-fleshed winter squash that you like. I’ve made pumpkin puree with lovely French heirloom pumpkins as well as butternut squashes. In fact, a pumpkin is just one type of winter squash, and some commercially canned pumpkin purees are actually a mix of winter squash and field pumpkin (but can still be labeled “pumpkin puree” per FDA guidelines).
I actually prefer the texture and flavor of any pumpkin or winter squash over the traditional sugar pumpkins, which I find to be fibrous and bland (as they contain more water). Most other types of pumpkins (and winter squashes like butternut, kabocha, or red kuri) have a velvety and naturally sweet profile when pureed, making them perfect for pies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, lattes, raviolis, stews, and any other recipe you can dream up.
If you use something other than a sugar pumpkin, keep in mind that the flesh is usually drier, so you’ll need to add a little water at a time when pureeing to turn out a smooth and creamy consistency.
Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1 pumpkin or other orange-fleshed winter squash
Water, as needed
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Depending on the size of your pumpkin, halve, quarter or (is there a such word?) octuple it lengthwise.
Scrape the seeds and guts out from the centers and pile them all into a bowl. You know what to do with them. I like to use a cookie scoop to scrape them out, but an ice cream scoop or grapefruit spoon also works.
Arrange the pumpkin wedges cut side up on a baking sheet. (You’ll notice a few of my wedges didn’t fit, which means I’ll just have to show you another use for fresh pumpkin next week!)
Roast for 45 minutes up to 1 hour, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh.
When the pumpkins are tender all the way through, remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool slightly before handling (I find the pumpkins easier to work with while they’re still warm).
Using a knife or your fingers, peel the skin off all the pumpkins. The skin should slide off very easily.
Cut the wedges into smaller chunks, then puree in batches using a food processor…
… Or a blender. Add a little water (just a few spoonfuls at a time) between pulses to reach the right consistency; you don’t want mashed pumpkin, you want pumpkin puree that’s free of clumps and stringy bits, just like baby food.
Homemade pumpkin puree will keep in the fridge for about a week. I freeze my excess in 1-cup portions stored in zip-top sandwich bags, flattened and stacked on top of each other. Frozen puree will keep for several months, and the bags are easy to grab and defrost in just the right amounts needed for a recipe.
Now, what will you make first?