If you’ve never made your own pumpkin puree to use in your pies, breads, soups, etc,. then you’re in for a treat. Canned pumpkin works great and is still a good source of nutrients, but the nutrients and flavor of fresh pumpkin puree just can’t be beat. Here’s a how-to guide for making your own pumpkin puree.
1. Start with a pie pumpkin.
“Pie pumpkins,” also called “sugar pumpkins” are smaller, sweeter, and less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual larger jack-o-lantern types which tend to have watery and stringy flesh, so they’re not a great choice for cooking with. Sugar pumpkins are much better for your pumpkin recipes. They have a firm, sweet flesh that is smoother and cooks up to a much more pleasant consistency than that of a larger pumpkin. They can be used for roasting, making soups and for making homemade pumpkin puree. Grocery stores usually carry pie pumpkins in late September through December.
They are small, usually only 6 to 8 inches in diameter. As a general rule, one pie pumpkin will yield about 2 to 3 cups of pumpkin puree. Typically you will get about a cup of puree for each pound of pumpkin. So a 2 ½ pound pumpkin will yield approximately 2 ½ cups of puree.
2. Cut the pumpkin in half.
3. Scrape out the seeds. Remove as much of the stringy part that coats the inside surface of the pumpkin. An ice cream scoop or a melon baller works great for this.
Note: Save the seeds! They have great nutritional benefits. Clean them and then air dry and eat raw or roast on low heat of 200 degrees until dry.
4. Cook the Pumpkin
There are several ways to cook the pumpkin; just choose use your preferred method. You can steam on the stovetop, bake in the oven, or use a pressure cooker.
Put a couple of inches of water in a large pot, place the pumpkin is a steamer basket or colander, cover the pot, and turn up the heat to boil the water. (I typically just put some water on the bottom of a large stock pot and add the pumpkin halves into it. No steamer basket needed! It works great.)
You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit. The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will be to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterwards.
Steam the pumpkin for 15 minutes, check to see if it is soft, then repeat in smaller increments of time until it is soft enough to scoop the innards out. Normally it takes 20 or 25 minutes in total.
You can also bake the prepared pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash. This method takes longer. Put the prepared pumpkin in a shallow baking dish flesh side down and add about a half-inch of water to help prevent it from drying out. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, until soft. The pumpkin will be done when you can easily insert a fork through the peel to the flesh.
5. Scoop the cooked pumpkin away from the peel.
Whether you steam or bake the pumpkin, once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the flesh with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon). Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin. It should separate easily and in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.
If your pumpkin is watery (there should not be any free water), you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes in a colander and then pour off any free water. That will help prevent your puree (and pies) from being too watery.
6. Puree the pumpkin
Use a food processor, Vitamix, or regular blender to puree the pumpkin, or do it by hand with a stick immersion blender, a potato masher, or even just a hand mixer with time and patience.
7. The pumpkin puree is done!
The pumpkin puree is now ready. Use as you would canned pumpkin in any recipe that calls for it.
It can be frozen in freezer-safe containers (like Ziploc bags or glass jars, just exclude as much air as you can). So be sure to cook up a big batch of pumpkins and freeze the puree in measured portions so that you are all set for a scrumptious season of pumpkin smoothies, pies, and soups!