Monday, November 22, 2010

For the Holidays: Homemade Pumpkin Purée

Unless you're crazy like one of my brothers, you will probably agree that one of the best parts of fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is pumpkin pie. What's not to love about cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and sugar mixed with pumpkin and baked in a flaky crust? And the whipped cream on top? Double delicious. My brother is totally nuts for not liking pumpkin pie.

Anyway, I thought I would show you how to make your own pumpkin puree. It's not nearly as hard to make as you think, I promise. Plus, fresh pumpkin purée tastes better than the processed stuff (though I use the canned pumpkin quite often). Pie and sugar pumpkins can be found in just about any grocery store throughout the holiday season and they don't cost very much. For even greater savings, you can grow your own pumpkins, make the purée, and freeze it.

The recipe below makes about 2 cups of purée, but that can vary depending on the size of your pumpkin.

To get started, you'll need:
  • A pumpkin (obviously) -- be sure to use the pie or sugar varieties. The big ones you buy around Halloween aren't great for purée because they have a grainier texture and aren't nearly as sweet. If you really want to use the big pumpkins (like the jack o' lantern types) you'll have to add a lot more sugar and puree it longer. Take my advice and just use the pie or sugar varieties.
  • A spoon and a sharp knife
  • A baking sheet
  • A blender or food processor
  • Water
Step 1 -- Clean out and slice up the pumpkin.

Remove all the seeds from the pumpkin. Slice the pumpkin up into wedges, each wedge about 2-3 inches wide. Cut off any stringy parts with a knife.

Step 2 -- Roast the pumpkin slices.

Arrange the pumpkin slices on a lined (we used parchment) baking sheet, skin side down.  Cook the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until tender (use a fork to check).

Step 3 -- Scoop out the pumpkin flesh, then purée.

Once you've cooked your pumpkin slices and once they've cooled, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. If you've cooked your pumpkin long enough, scooping it out will be no trouble at all. If you find that it isn't coming easily, roast the slices a little longer {that's what my mom and I had to do with the larger wedges}.

In a food processor or blender, purée the pumpkin with a little bit of water. The water will help the pumpkin mix better. I'd recommend starting with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water; if the pumpkin is still not getting smooth, add some more water, just a tablespoon or two at a time.

You can either use the purée right away or you can put it into Mason jars and freeze the purée for later use.

That's it -- pumpkin purée in just three easy steps. And then, when you make your pumpkin pie (or cookies or cake or bread) this season, you can tell your guests that you used fresh pumpkin. They'll be impressed. It's up to you, though, if they find out how easy it was.

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