As I mentioned yesterday, we recently celebrated Elena’s birthday, for which I made a Pumpkin Cake. This cake was inspired by the beautiful organic “Cinderella” pumpkins I found at my local market. I had been told by another local farmer that these make “the best” pumpkin pies and such. I was so happy with the result! (Always pay attention to the advice of your local farmers!)
Why make your own pumpkin puree when you can buy it canned? Four reasons: Fresher tasting, cheaper, higher quality, more nutritious (canned food has lost a lot of nutrients). If you would rather, I have heard that using squash makes a great substitution.
Too often you hear of people putting some work into making their own pumpkin puree to use in recipes, only to be disappointed when it turns out less than flavorful and watery. Do two things to avoid this from happening. 1-Use the right type of pumpkin. A pie pumpkin (which is a fairly small pumpkin), or a Cinderella pumpkin are good choices. The ones you buy for your kids may have some good pumpkin seeds for you to use, but have far less flavor and too much water for pies and cakes. 2-The second thing to do is to cook your pumpkin in a way that does not promote a watery final product, and to strain off any extra water.
Keeping those two principles in mind, this is how I cooked my pumpkin. I choose to dry roast it, instead of steam it or bake with water surrounding it. I found this an excellent choice because my Cinderella pumpkin released a lot of water! After trying this puree out in some recipes, I can’t wait to make some more for my freezer.
Pumpkin Puree for Pies and other Recipes
1 Cinderella Pumpkin, washed and cut down the middle, and seeded
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your seeded and cut pumpkin, cut side down on a baking sheet (you can use two if you need too). Poke the skin side with a fork in several places on both pieces. Place in the oven and roast until soft (a fork should go through the skin and flesh with ease once it’s done). I had a fairly large pumpkin, so this took about 1 1/2-2 hours. Length of time will vary according to the size of your pumpkin.
Turn over your pumpkin halves… …once they are cool enough to handle and scoop out the flesh into a fine sieve set over a bowl.
Very gently turn over and stir to drain some of the excess water out. You may have to do this in batches, as it probably all won’t fit in at once. Once it looks fairly dry and isn’t dripping anymore. Dump into a food processor and process until smooth.
That’s it, folks!
If you end up with still too much water in your puree, you could line your sieve with cheesecloth and drain some more of it out. But I find that with the first draining, I can get it to the perfect texture.
Pumpkin pies, here we come!
*Update: A piano student very kindly gave me a sugar or pie pumpkin that was grown in their garden. I made it up for a few projects and found it very nice (it had a darker color and more pronounced pumpkin taste). Because it was so small, it didn’t take as much time to bake, and it was a bit drier (though this may have been because I got a little distracted and slightly over baked it). I ended up not having to drain it at all, but just added it to a blender with about 1/2 cup of water, and it was perfect!