Making Pumpkin Puree

I made some pumpkin puree this evening to freeze for making pies and mostly pumpkin bread and I thought I’d post a how-to.  It’s actually fairly simple to make the puree but I try to do it as easily as possible.

Some people might tell you to peel and chunk up the pumpkin and then boil it, etc.  Pumpkin is ridiculously difficult to peel, so let’s just make it easy.  Turn the oven on to 325 or 350, cut your pumpkin in half and set each half on a cookie sheet, cut side up.  Cover with foil and let them bake for a couple hours.  You know how pumpkins can get that stringy texture?  The longer cooking helps remove that stringiness so you don’t even need to puree them as much.

Oh and a quick tip – I leave the seeds IN when I bake them.  They are much easier to scoop out once the pumpkin is cooked, and since we don’t eat them they are then easily compostable and I don’t have to worry about gazillions of pumpkin sprouts.  I literally cut in half, cover with foil, bake for a looooong time, then scoop out the pulp when I’m done.

This evening I used my KitchenAid food strainer but truth be told I wouldn’t recommend using it for pumpkin puree.  I’ll go into that in my next post but I think the strainer is a bit overkill for pumpkin puree.  I have made puree in a blender although I think the best tool for the job would be a Foley food mill.  You can even just mash it with a fork, which would make excellent pumpkin bread.  Just make sure it is REALLY well cooked beforehand for the most creamy texture.

Once the pumpkin is pureed, I just measure it out in 2 cup increments and put it into sandwich baggies.  I freeze them flat, and then stick them all in a bigger zip-top freezer bag.  Most recipes that call for pumpkin call for 2 cups.  I had 5 sugar pumpkins and I got 11 cups of puree.  I divided it between 5 bags, so each bag is a little more than 2 cups.  That’s okay for me because I mostly just make pumpkin bread and the little extra won’t hurt that.

Homemade pumpkin puree is messy and some work to do.  Sometimes you need to drain it in a colander lined with paper towels if it turns out too runny.  The canned stuff is much thicker and so sometimes can make better textured pies.  I have no problems using the canned stuff, but because I am who I am I would always rather make my own.  Making your own, it tastes fresher and has a brighter color.  I also don’t make many pumpkin pies, but love pumpkin bread.  Did you know that commercially canned pumpkin is not actually pumpkin?  It is often made from different types of winter squash, one of them being called “Dickinson.”  Squash and pumpkins are so closely related sometimes it’s the squashes that taste the best.

One of the pumpkins on my list to grow this next year is the Jarrahdale squash… sometimes called a pumpkin but is also considered a squash.  I’ve tried it two years in a row… first year I got it in the garden too late, then this year we MOVED.  Third time’s a charm!  I don’t know if I will have any luck growing it out here with my lack of sunlight but I’ll try some up at the property too and we’ll see how they do there.  Jarrahdale are good sized blue ribbed squash and are supposedly one of the best ones for baking and cooking.

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