When you think of October, what do you think of? Besides the obvious Halloween holiday tradition, pumpkin ‘everything’ comes to my mind. Families are taking trips to their local pumpkin patches to take “How Tall This Fall” pictures, and of course, to gather the decorations for their front porches.
Because of the abundance of pumpkins this time of year, it is now that we start storing up pumpkin puree in my freezer. Homemade pumpkin puree is simple to prepare and the taste makes canned pumpkin that you find in the grocery store taste bland. Aside from the obvious use in pumpkin pie, it comes in handy for pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin dip, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin butter. And the health benefits of pure pumpkin puree are too plentiful to mention.
The most common question that we get about pumpkin puree is how to properly preserve it. I am sad to say, canning the puree is out of the question. Based on USDA guidelines, the only option of canning pumpkin is by cubing chunks of pumpkin and pressure canning for a really long time. Water bathing is not an option. So, in our quest to preserve the autumn’s gift of pumpkins, we resort to freezing the puree in 1 cup portions in freezer bags. By freezing them in flat bags, the amount of freezer space that it takes up is minimal. And that is a good thing, because this time of year, our freezer is almost full!
Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1. What pumpkins to use? — I prefer to use pie pumpkins….they are naturally sweeter and their flavor is more consistent than the pumpkins that you use for jack-o-lanterns. However, many people use the larger pumpkins with good results.
2. Wash the outside of your pumpkin. Of course, the pumpkin rind is not included in the final puree product, but when you cut your pumpkin, whatever is on the outside will soon be on the inside.
3. Cut off the top stem and discard. Make sure you have a large sharp knife and a steady surface to work on.
4. Cut the pumpkin into 4 quarters. If you are using larger pumpkins, you may want to cut the quarters in half.
5. Remove (but please do not discard) the seeds — you can roast these later.
6. Remove all the stringy pulp that is around the seeds – using an ice cream scoop with sharp edges makes this process go much smoother.
7. Now there are several ways to cook your pumpkin for easy removal of the flesh. Directions for steaming are located here. You can also microwave the pumpkin pieces in water, or roast them. This time we chose the roasting method, as we had other things to get done while it cooked down. Place each of your pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.
*Experiment: We placed the pieces both face up and face down to see if there would be any difference. We did not notice a difference in the cooking process, however, we found that it was easier to ‘skin’ the pumpkins rather than scoop out the puree. Therefore, roasting them face side down was the better option for us – but it really doesn’t matter.
8. Place the puree into your food processor, blender, or in a bowl to use with an immersion blender. Blend until smooth. You could also use a food mill if that is your only option.
9. Measure puree into one cup portions and place into a freezer safe container. We prefer to use freezer bags as they are able to lay flat and store easily in our overused freezer.
Now you have fresh pumpkin puree to use whenever your recipe calls for it!
Mary and Jim