Hello, fall baking! I can’t think of a better way to do that than with fresh, homemade pumpkin puree — the star of the show in so many fall recipes. There’s pumpkin pie (and oh, what a difference it makes when we use homemade puree), pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and even pumpkin spice lattes. Yes, pumpkin puree is one of PSL’s key ingredients. It is so easy to turn fresh pumpkins into homemade pumpkin puree.
But first, let’s answer some of your questions:
— What is pumpkin puree?
It’s just as it sounds — fresh pumpkin that has been roasted and then pureed until smooth. Roasting is necessary to soften the pumpkin before blending. While you could prepare this in the microwave (on high, 7 minutes per pound), I find that roasting makes pumpkin puree taste even better!
— Are fresh pumpkin puree and canned pumpkin the same?
Yes, If the canned pumpkin you purchase is 100% pumpkin, it’s essentially the same as pumpkin puree. Just make sure you aren’t grabbing pumpkin pie filling (they look alike on the supermarket shelf) if your recipe calls for pumpkin puree. Pumpkin pie filling contains sugar, spices and other unknown ingredients, and does not come close to tasting like pumpkin pie filling you can make using fresh pumpkin puree.
— Are pumpkin seeds edible?
Yes, and so delicious, but don’t try to eat them raw. They need to be seasoned and properly roasted. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and super delicious. You can eat them as a snack or use them for salad toppers, in granola or to garnish soup. It would be a crying shame if you were to toss out the pumpkin seeds!
— How can I tell if I’m getting the right kind of pumpkin?
Sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins in some regions) are small and typically about 2 pounds each. They’re darker in color than the jumbo jack-o’-lantern type.
HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PUREE RECIPE
2 whole small pumpkins
Select small, dark orange pumpkins (not those tiny, mini pumpkins at the craft store or home decor aisle), sometimes called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. Don’t even think about going for big jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. You will be horribly disappointed because they are too large, tough and stringy for baking. And those big guys do not taste good. Sugar pumpkins are slightly sweet with a smoother texture.
With a sharp knife, cut off the tops of the pumpkins, right below the stem, and throw that top part into the garbage.
Next, cut the pumpkins in half. Scrape the seeds and stringy insides using a big spoon or even an ice cream scoop. Place the seeds in a bowl to roast later (yum!), and toss the pulp and strings into the garbage. Repeat until all the pumpkin halves are cleaned out.
Cut each of the halves into a couple of wedges.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan (cookie sheet). Spread out the pumpkin wedges on the pan, skin up or skin down — it doesn’t matter. Place the pan in the oven and set to 350 F. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin pieces are fork-tender (very soft). Remove from the oven.
Allow the pumpkin pieces to cool sufficiently so that you can handle them safely. Pull or scrape the skin from the pumpkin meat using a knife. Toss the skins into the garbage.
Place a few chunks of roasted, skinned pumpkin into a food processor. Pulse small batches of pumpkin until totally smooth. (Add a tablespoon of water if it seems too dry to get it smooth. Too watery? Strain it through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of some of it.) As you complete a batch, pour it into a bowl, then continue until all the pumpkin has been pureed.
A blender will work, too, but you may need to add a bit of water to produce a smooth puree. No food processor or blender? No worries. You can mash it up with a potato masher, or force it through a potato ricer or even a food mill.
You can use this beautiful homemade pumpkin puree in all kinds of recipes calling for canned pumpkin puree, measure for measure. And of course, you can do this with just one pumpkin! If I’m going to expend the time and effort, why not make enough puree to last for a good while? That’s why I’ve recommended two small pumpkins.
NOTE: If you’re making pumpkin pie, strain the excess liquid by letting it sit in a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth) over a bowl for 30 minutes.
Homemade pumpkin puree is, without doubt, more time-consuming than opening a can. And this time of year (the season is short!) when pumpkins are readily available, homemade puree is considerably cheaper than canned puree.
But wait, there’s more! Homemade from fresh pumpkins is the best pumpkin puree ever, and that’s a pretty good bonus!
You can refrigerate fresh homemade pumpkin puree for up to three days. Or freeze it in 1-cup portions in zip-type freezer bags or ice cube trays for smaller portions, for up to eight months, to enjoy the great taste of fall pumpkins for months to come.