The pumpkin has risen in fame and popularity over the past few years. Come fall, it’s hard to find a restaurant, coffee shop, or grocery store that’s not touting pumpkin flavored goodies. And we’re not complaining. We hopped on the pumpkin bandwagon and we’re happy to be on board! Although the pumpkin is the superstar of fall, we’d venture to guess that most people have never made their own pumpkin puree. Which is crazy, because it’s so easy to make!
Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with canned pumpkin puree. It’ll do the trick just fine. But if you want to take your pumpkin pie or other pumpkin goodies to the next level of deliciousness, you’ve got to make your own pumpkin puree.
The first step to making your own pumpkin puree is choosing the correct pumpkins. The large pumpkins you find at your local pumpkin patch are great for Jack ‘o lanterns, but not so much for pumpkin puree. Instead, you’ll need baking pumpkins. They are usually labeled as pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. You can find baking pumpkins at your grocer, farmer’s market, or pumpkin patch. We’ve even seen them sold at hardware stores!
Get started by washing and drying your baking pumpkins, making sure to remove any dirt or grit from the outside skin. Next, remove the stems. Sometimes you can simply twist the stems off. If they won’t twist off, use a sharp knife. To keep the pumpkin from rolling around while you’re trying to cut off the stem, you can slice off a small piece of the skin from one of its sides. Then lay the pumpkin on the sliced side and cut the stem.
Once the stems have been removed, take a sharp chef’s knife or cleaver to cut the pumpkins in half lengthwise (from stem to bottom). If your baking pumpkins are on the larger side, you may need to use a mallet to hammer your cleaver into the pumpkin. We like to use smaller baking pumpkins so that we can easily cut them with a sharp chef’s knife. Your choice!
Now that the pumpkins have been cut in half, use a spoon to remove the pumpkin “guts” — all the stringy fibers and seeds. Be sure to save the seeds for later use. Sidenote: don’t you just love the smell of a freshly cut pumpkin. So good!
Once the pumpkin guts have been removed, sprinkle a little kosher salt inside each half. The salt helps soften the flesh of the pumpkins while also pulling some of the moisture out. Place the pumpkins cut side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until tender, which typically takes around an hour to an hour and a half. You can check the tenderness with a paring knife. When done, the paring knife will easily pierce the skin and will be easy to remove too.
Once the pumpkins are tender, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. This usually takes about an hour. Any less and you could burn yourself trying to remove the flesh. Once they are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the roasted flesh of the pumpkins. The flesh should peel away easily from the skin. Place the flesh into a food processor and process until smooth, usually 3-4 minutes.
Homemade pumpkin puree can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months. Store it in an airtight freezer bag (don’t forget to write the date on the bag!). Make your pumpkin puree now and you’ll be all set for the upcoming holiday season!
Now you have wonderfully delicious homemade pumpkin puree that you can use in desserts, soups, and smoothies. Use it to create homemade pumpkin ravioli. Try adding it to oatmeal, along with roasted pumpkin seeds or walnuts. Pumpkin puree also makes a nutritious baby food. How will you use your homemade pumpkin puree? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!