This time of year you can’t huck a cat without hitting a pumpkin recipe. And they all call for canned pumpkin. This makes me really sad. What is the point of celebrating fall with pumpkin dishes if you are only going to use canned pumpkin? There is nothing seasonal about canned pumpkin.
Making your own pumpkin or squash puree requires only a few minutes of effort. And canned pumpkin all tastes the same. If you get out to your local farmer’s market you will probably find a huge variety of pumpkins and squash, all with slightly different flavors. Take that fairytale pumpkin in the far left of the picture above, for instance, its flesh has an incredibly floral taste. You’d never find anything like it canned.
Here is the easy way to make pumpkin puree:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Slice your pumpkin/squash in half and remove all seeds. Place pumpkin halves upright on baking sheet (see picture, left) and bake, uncovered, until you encounter no resistance when piercing the pumpkin with a fork or toothpick, about 45-60 min. The length of time really depends on the size and thickness of your pumpkin. Don’t worry, it’s really hard to overcook pumpkin that you want to turn into a puree. Go rake some leaves or watch some football. Check them in awhile.
When your pumpkin is done, scoop out the flesh and mash it well with a potato masher or throw it in a food processor until smooth. As the pumpkin bakes enough water will evaporate from it to make your mashed pumpkin the right thickness for pumpkin pie.
The surface of the exposed halves may get a little dry and leathery. You can slice this off if you like but I never do because when you mash up the pumpkin and it gets mixed in with everything else, the extra dry parts will soak up moisture from the rest of the pumpkin and it won’t be noticeable in the finished product.
An alternative way to make pumpkin puree: Peel and cube raw pumpkin (which is easier said than done). Boil pumpkin in water on stovetop as you would boil potatoes. When pumpkin is tender, drain water and mash. Place your mashed pumpkin back on the stove and cook, stirring constantly, to get rid of all that water that was added to the pumpkin by boiling, plus some.