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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Some of you may not realize this, but pumpkin puree does not originate in a can.  I know I didn’t.   In fact, it starts with real honest-to-goodness pumpkins.  Shocking, huh?  When I fist learned that I could make my own pumpkin puree from scratch, it was a revelation.  Homemade pumpkin puree is lighter, airier and has a much more delicate flavor than than the canned stuff.  Not to say that canned puree is bad – because it’s not.  It’s convenient and makes a damn fine pumpkin pie. But, considering how easy homemade puree is to make,  every self-respecting home cook should try it at least once.  And luckily for you, dear readers, I am about to show you how. 

The first thing you need to do is go out and buy some pumpkins.  If you have a friend with their own little pumpkin patch who’s willing to share, so much the better!   Don’t get one of those big, old jack-o-lantern pumpkins, either.  They’re tough and stringy inside.  You want to look for those small, cute sugar pumpkins – also called pie pumpkins.  Their flesh is sweet and lovely.

In order to turn your pumpkins into puree, you have to cook them first.  Grab a sharp, heavy knife or cleaver and whack the pumpkins in half.  You’ll need to put a little oomph into it.  Scrape out all of the seeds and gunky stuff with a large spoon.  But, DO NOT throw away the seeds!  Rinse and dry them, and save them for making delicious toasted pumpkin seeds to snack on later.

Season the insides of the pumpkins with a little salt if you want.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t.   Then, lay them, face down, on a baking sheet and roast them until they’re very soft and tender.  You can also make pumpkin puree by simmering peeled cubes of pumpkin in water or steaming it.  I’ve tried it, but the pumpkin tasted a little waterlogged to me.  In my opinion, roasting is the way to go.

After the pumpkin has finished roasting, take it out of the oven to cool.   When it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out all of the flesh and puree it in a food processor until it is smooth and luscious-looking.  It will now be ready to use in all of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

The puree will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.  You can also freeze it to make pumpkin goodies long after the Spring thaw.    I spoon a cup or two it into quart-sized zip lock freezer bags and store them in the freezer.  When I want to use one, I just take it out and pop it in the fridge to defrost.   So, go ahead and make a lot.

I love to use my homemade pumpkin puree in all kinds of different baked goods, as well as in custards, ice cream and soups.  What’s your favorite way to use pumpkin puree?.