Making your own pumpkin puree is easy and rewarding with the right tools. Autumn is when pumpkins make their appearance in stores as Jack-O-Lanterns which are not generally intended for consumption. You can eat any pumpkin just as you would any other squash, but carving pumpkins are stringy, watery and lack flavor, so save these for your holiday decorations. Pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins as they are also called, are small in size, have smooth textured skin, and flavorful dense flesh. They can be roasted whole, steamed, or cut into smaller chunks and added to soups and curries. The puree can be used of course for pumpkin pie, and it makes excellent muffins, bread, cakes, and soup stock. A long shelf life means you can keep pumpkins for months at a cool room temperature.
Don’t forget the seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds are fun to make and a nutritious snack. The larger the pumpkin, generally, the more the seeds, so perhaps that Jack-O-Lantern can be more than a pretty (or scary) face! However if you’re preparing several small pie pumpkins for the freezer, seeds will be plenty.
Here we make Pumpkin Puree. There are 2 basic methods. Both start with washing the pumpkin and cutting it into manageable sizes, then either boiling until soft or roasting. We prefer roasting as that produces a deeper flavor. How many pumpkins you need depends entirely on if you’re roasting enough for a single pie, or freezing for a year. For this guide we used the 4 pumpkins pictured that weighed 17 pounds unprocessed. The result was 8.5 pounds of processed puree, or 9, 15 oz (2 cup) containers for the freezer. This is a manageable amount to roast on two oven racks if quantity is your goal. With this in mind, one 4 pound pie pumpkin should yield enough puree for 2 pies
- Wash, dry and remove the stem. A quick whack on the stem with a hammer should do the trick if it’s stubborn.
- Cut pumpkins in quarters or more depending on size. No need to remove seeds at this point, unless you want roasted seeds. In that case, cut around the inner seed cluster with a sharp paring knife as pictured, place in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the cut pumpkin pieces on baking sheets and bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 – 90 minutes depending on density of cut pieces. A pronged fork will easily slide through the pumpkin flesh when done, similar to a potato.
- Pull pans from oven and cool until pieces are easily handled.
- If seeds have not been removed, do so now scooping out easily with a spoon, and discard.
- Peel and scrape the skin off the back of each wedge with a paring knife, then cut wedges into several smaller pieces and place in a food processor, such as a Cuisinart. Discard skins.
- Whirl pumpkin until well pureed. We processed 4 batches with our pumpkins in an 11 cup Cuisinart.
- Scrape all batches of pumpkin puree into a sieve or colander set over a bowl. This will allow excess liquid to drain.
- Cover the puree with a tea towel, or if the puree is mounded above the container, cover lightly with plastic wrap or wax paper first, then put bowl in a cool place to drain. Depending on how moist your pumpkins are, releasing excess liquid can take 1-2 hours. Save the liquid if desired for soups and sauces.
- Pack the puree in food safe freezer containers. 2 cup containers will hold 15 oz portions with enough head space for expansion. Each container is sufficient for one large pumpkin pie. Later when you thaw a container, any puree left over from recipes calling for less puree than you thawed, can be used in smoothies or added to soups or other dishes.
- Be sure to label containers with contents and date, and use within a year.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Separating pumpkin seeds from the inner flesh cluster you cut from the pumpkin wedges can feel tedious to some, therapeutic to others. Why not make this process a high spirited, hands on experience in the kitchen for kids to have permission to get messy! However you approach preparing pumpkin seeds for roasting, teasing seeds from their stringy membranes, plying the textures between fingertips, and washing slimy seeds is definitely a textural experience.
- Separate seeds from the membrane.
- Place seeds in a colander and wash thoroughly, removing excess pulp, though it’s fine if some flesh remains.
- Dry the seeds with a towel to roast right away, or spread them onto baking sheets a few hours or overnight. The drier the seed, the shorter the roasting time.
- When you’re ready to roast seeds, pour a little olive oil or clarified butter into a bowl that will hold the seeds with room to spare. Less is best when it comes to oil. You want only just enough to coat the seeds. We used ½ teaspoon clarified butter for 1 ½ cups seeds and that worked nicely.
- Sprinkle with salt and toss the seeds to coat thoroughly. Additional seasoning suggestions are in the Note below.
- Spread seeds evenly on baking sheets. Overlapping some won’t be an issue.
- Roast in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven, mixing seeds carefully with a long handled spatula every few minutes to insure even roasting. This process can take 15-45 minutes depending on how dry the seeds were at the start of roasting.
- Seeds are ready when they are golden in color and the roasted aroma fills your kitchen.
- Remove from oven and allow the baking sheet to cool.
- NOTE: Pumpkin seeds are delicious roasted simply with oil and salt. More adventurous tastes include pepper, garlic powder, a flavored paprika, a touch of cayenne, or a little sauce such as soy sauce or balsamic vinegar.