I don’t normally cook a lot of pumpkin goodies, so I’ve only ever made puree twice, both times were mostly because I had a pumpkin that I needed to do something with before it began to rot. Normally, I make jack-o-lanterns from pumpkins, but when I went to find a good jack-o-lantern pumpkin at the store this year, all I found were badly misshapen or already rotting pumpkins. Call me snoody, but I’m not paying $3.50 for a rotten pumpkin; it’s just that simple. And I’m picky on the shape of my jack-o-lanterns. Therefore, I wandered over to the pie pumpkins to see how they looked. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carve them with my regular kitchen knives and didn’t really have money for pumpkin carving knives, but I still wanted to get a pumpkin. Since they were so cheap and in good condition, I bought two little pie pumpkins. For some fall decoration during a couple of get-togethers we had last month, I left the pumpkins sitting on the table, but yesterday was D-day for those little pumpkins. (Quite frankly, I’m getting to close too my own “D-day” to put some stuff off. It’s time to get things done.)
The first time that I made pumpkin puree was a couple of years. I had never made puree or seen it made, and I didn’t have easy internet access to google any ideas. What I ended up doing was taking a jack-o-lantern sized pumpkin, gutting it, peeling it, and cutting it up into little chunks before boiling those chunks and pureeing them with a hand mixer like mashed potatoes without milk and butter. It worked, and if you’re willing to get a few blisters, go for doing that way. There is a much easier way, though. 😉
Step 1: Give that pumpkin a bath!
It is better to use pie pumpkins from what I’ve read because the “meat” (the yellow interior wall of the pumpkin) is supposed to be more tender and “sweeter” (less bitter). However, never fear if all you have is a jack-o-lantern pumpkin because they can be cooked, too. To bathe the pumpkins just wash off the outside of them to get the dirt and what-not off of them. No biggie.
Step 2: Cut that bad boy in half!
To do this, I started at the stem and went down to the bottom. Then, I did the same thing on the other side, cutting from stem to bottom. Once I had it cut, I pulled the pumpkin apart. In both cases, the stem broke off with one side or the other, and I just broke it off from the side of the pumpkin. I did read a blog post where the person cut the stem in half, but my knife isn’t that good. If you have a good knife, go for it, but I hear it’s tough. If you leave the stem on, it will easily come off once you cook the pumpkins, so what you do with the stem is up to you.
Step 3: Gut the pumpkin!
As you can see in the picture above, I have cleaned out the “guts” (pulp and seeds) of the pumpkins. I just used a spoon and scraped the slimy pulp off the meat of the pumpkins. I did read where someone suggested using an ice cream scoop, which I have never thought of, but I’m sure would work wonders. However, I wouldn’t use a scoop with the little lever to push the ice cream out of the spoon. It would probably break your lever or at least be a pain to clean.
You can just throw away the seeds and the pulp or put it in a bowl to separate the seeds later. You can either toast the seeds or save them to plant next year to grow your own pumpkins. Also, if you compost, you can put the “guts” in your compost pile, but you probably already know that.
Step 4: Butter up your pumpkin for its sauna experience!
Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and brush it onto the cut edges and inside walls of the pumpkins. Place the pumpkins buttered-side down onto a cookie sheet covered in foil. Bake at 350-degrees for about an hour or until your pumpkins are nice and soft. I’ve read everything from baked apple soft to baked potato soft. Mine turned out soft baked potato soft, and it worked just fine. Really, you just need it soft enough to easily peel the rind off the meat and then to puree the meat.
As you can see, once the pumpkin comes out of the oven, the rind is much darker. This is perfectly fine. All you’re going to do with it is toss it anyway. Also, you will probably have some juices on your cookie sheet. You should save this because you may need it when you puree your cooked pumpkin meat.
Step 5: Peel off all that dead skin!
As I told you earlier, my pumpkins got real good and soft. They were so soft, in fact, that the rinds came off in one solid piece. Peeling was incredibly easy in my case. If your pumpkins aren’t as soft, the rinds may come off in strips, but either way, it will be much easier than peeling it before cooking it – trust me.
When you do peel off the rind, be sure to use a spoon or a fork or something if you don’t let the pumpkins cool first. As you can see in this picture, the meat of the pumpkin is HOT, and the rind acts like a blanket, holding all that heat inside. The pumpkins are hotter underneath the rind than the rind itself is, and remember that steam can burn just as much as boiling water or a hot pan. My point is, be careful!
Step 6: Puree the pumpkin meat!
Scoop all of that soft pumpkin into a mixing bowl, a food processor, or even a blender. My pumpkin was so soft, I just used a spoon to smoosh it really good. (Not to mention, I was starting to get tired and was running out of time and didn’t feel like messing up another bunch of dishes to wash later. Shortcuts are your best friend when you’re nine months pregnant.) If your pumpkin isn’t as soft, use a mixer or processor of some kind. You may need to add a bit of water or some of the juices from the cookie sheet to get it that nice smooth consistancy. I didn’t add any liquid because mine was super soft from the start.
Step 7: Bag the pumpkin, tag it, and give it a proper burial!
If you’re going to use your puree immediately, then don’t worry about this step, but if you’re making this for future use, you gotta store it. One can of pumpkin from the store is about 1 3/4 to 2 cups worth of puree. I have some quart-sized freezer bags, and I put about 2 cups of puree in each bag for easy use. My two pie pumpkins made about 4 cups of puree, so that’s equivalent to two cans of pumpkin from the store. (Did I mention that I bought my pumpkins for $0.79 each? You can do the math for the savings, I’m sure.)
Once you bag your pumpkin puree, flatten out the bag and freeze it. Don’t forget to lable your bag! If you’re a canning kind of person, I’m sure there’s a way to do that, but I don’t know what it is. But I figure your puree would last much longer canned than frozen. Most frozen things have a shelf life of about a year, whereas canning is normally a few years. But either way, you do it, you’ve saved some money and have something that tastes much better than what you buy at the store.