Fall is a perfect time to make pumpkin puree for pumpkin custard, muffins, pancakes, waffles, soup, smoothies, custard or pie and all things pumpkin! I know you can just buy it in a can, but making it yourself is easy! It saves money, it's delicious, nutritious, and hasn't been sitting on a shelf in a yucky can for who knows how long. Pumpkins are easy to come by before Halloween, but a little trickier to find after. They're also easy to grow, if you have a garden. While sugar pumpkins are the usual type of pumpkin recommend for puree, you can also use bigger pumpkins and even carved Jack-O-Lanterns, as long as they are not soft, or moldy.
If you're not into using pumpkin puree, no worries. Use the same method, but instead of pureeing, mash and top with butter, a drizzle of pure maple syrup and cinnamon for a delicious side dish. You can store pumpkin in portions in the fridge for up to a week, or longer in the freezer, to use as the side dish I described. Re-heat in a pan on the stove, with a little water.
Whole, Organic Pumpkin, or Carved Jack-O-Lantern
1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Wash the outside of pumpkin and dry.
3. If you have a small sugar pumpkin cut the pumpkin in half from side to side and scrape out the seeds.
4. If you have a larger pumpkin, use a large sharp knife to cut into sections that will fit on a cookie sheet and in your oven.
5. Reserve the seeds to dehydrate for a yummy snack. If you're using a small sugar pumpkin, the seeds are generally too small to eat: all shell with hardly any seed.
6. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place in the oven to bake until very soft.
7. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, or pumpkin pieces, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook. You'll know it's done when it's very soft when pierced with a fork or knife.
8. Remove from the oven and cool until it's still warm, but cool enough to touch and handle.
9. Scrape the pumpkin flesh off of the skin and into a blender. Puree until smooth.
10. Line a colander with a cloth such as an old kitchen dish towel; cheese cloth does not have a fine enough weave. Suspend colander over a bowl or pan.
11. Pour the pumpkin puree into the cloth lined colander. Drain the pumpkin puree until it's very thick. I would suggest draining for about 24 hours in the fridge. It's very important to drain the liquid off the puree, if it's not drained well, it will have too much liquid in it to bake well. Sugar pumpkins will have less liquid than bigger pumpkins.
12. Freeze in portions; a standard size can of pumpkin is 15 ounces.
1. Large pumpkins do not have quite as good of flavor as
smaller sugar pumpkins, but they'll still work, so don't throw them away! You can always use a little more salt or sweetener in your recipe and you'll never know the difference.
2. With a large sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Then cut pumpkin into wedges and chunks of the same size-ish. Do not peel. Wash the pieces and scrape/cut off any yucky stuff with a spoon, goop scoop or knife.
3. Follow instructions above.
4. Make sure to save the seeds. Bigger pumpkins equal bigger seeds that make for delicious snacking.
You can also cook the pumpkin in a roaster or slow cooker. In fact, when I have a lot of pumpkins, I sometimes cook it all in my oven, roaster and slow cooker at the same time. Just cook until soft and follow directions above.