Where do I begin? That’s right.
In the beginning…
To this day I have a vivid memory from when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Our neighbor lady up the country road told my mother she had made her own pumpkin puree and it was just HORRIBLE! She told my mother not to ever bother wasting her time growing or making her own pumpkin puree for pies, etc.
I have no idea what method or what kind of pumpkin that lady used in her attempt. I suspect it was not a baking type. Who knew there were different types?
I was just a kid back then. So yes, I’m sorry to say that cooking tidbit stuck with me for nearly 50 years! And even as a pumpkin lover, I never questioned it. That’s right, every year (until this one) I have purchased the canned stuff (which is fine if that’s all you have access to–I’m not judging anyone). But seriously, HOW silly of me not to push a little harder and try things for myself?!
Fast forward 47 years +/- and here I am growing my own heirloom baking pumpkins. And YES! I use them to make my own puree for pies, pancakes, cakes, breads, scones, soups/stews and so much more! I can’t even believe how easy it is to do. Or how delicious it is compared to the store-bought stuff in a metal can.
After I did it the first time, I had a face-palm moment. HOW on earth could I not allow myself to try this sooner? Sheesh!
Well…I absolutely adore growing these pumpkins because we use the ENTIRE thing. Nothing is wasted. At all. The skins get chopped up, simmered and fed to the chickens; the stringy guts also get fed to the chickens. Did I mention that my chickens LOVE pumpkins?
Even the seeds are used. The seeds get cleaned. Some of them get saved for planting next year. The rest get brined, roasted and seasoned for a delicious, nutritious snack OR saved roasted and unseasoned in an airtight container to be used in making granola, etc. Be sure to check out next week’s post on roasting pumpkin seeds and making pumpkin granola (it uses puree and seeds)!
Even the hard stem goes into the compost.
Part 1: Choose, Clean, Cut, Roast, Puree–>Then Use or Freeze!
You’ll want to choose a nice baking style pumpkin which is usually going to be about the size of a volleyball OR SMALLER. Giant pumpkins are tempting, but they are not ideal for the flavor profile you want in a baking/cooking pumpkin. Look for heirloom “sugar pie” or “baking” types. If you have a local farm store or farmers’ market, that’s often a great source. Plus, supporting your local growers helps keep your food producer in business and a strong food supply chain close to you. That’s especially important these days, right?
Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin and you’re ready to make some puree, give it a good rinse, clean and pat it dry. Place it on your cutting board. Poke your knife into the top at one side of the stem and carefully cut down the outside curve until you reach the center bottom. Pull the knife out. Turn the pumpkin and repeat on the opposite side of the stem, cutting until you reach the bottom center and the pumpkin split is complete, except for the stem. Please don’t try to cut the stem, it will ruin your knife. Set your knife aside, insert a finger or two inside the split at the bottom. Use both hand to grasp each side of the pumpkin bottom and pull it apart. The stem should snap right off from one side or the other at the top.
Place one half in a colander and scrape out the seeds and guts. Repeat with the other side. SAVE your seeds!
While your pumpkin is roasting, you can clean the seeds to roast separately. If you have chickens, they will love the stringy guts. If not, the guts are great to compost along with the stem (and skins after roasting).
Now let’s get roasting. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the inside flesh lightly with salt. NOTE: The salt is optional, so if you don’t want it, can’t have it or don’t like it, don’t use it! Place flesh side down on your parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size of your pumpkin(s) and your oven, you’ll roast them anywhere from approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour +/-. You’ll know the pumpkin is done when the skin is golden, wrinkly and you can easily pierce the pumpkin all the way through in several places with your knife.
The pumpkins below are done and cooling.
Once the pumpkin is cool and able to be touched, flip over and scoop the soft flesh into your food processor. Process/puree until pumpkin is smooth.
You can use the puree now, save it in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to about a week OR freeze it. It lasts in the freezer for 3 – 6 months (or more)!
Here you can see the load of frozen pumpkin I made from our early harvest in September (because it SNOWED the Wednesday after Labor Day 2020). I’ve made a bunch more since then and I still have over 50 pumpkins to process. Thankfully, they are very good keepers and I can work on them a few at a time.
How about you? Have you ever made your own pumpkin puree before? I’d love to hear about it. Tell me about your pumpkin puree making experiences in the comments below.
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