My first experience with DIY pumpkin puree was probably inspired by Martha Stewart. As a teenager, I used to watch Martha Stewart’s TV show with my mom when I was on summer break and then again during the winter holiday. I think this may have been when I started getting interested in where my food actually came from. The thought of using pumpkin for something other than carving it into a Jack-O-Lantern was really appealing, but I didn’t have a clue where to find a pie pumpkin. The only pumpkins in the grocery store were the carving kind.
Fast forward to my early twenties: I was still intrigued by all things food related. I had decided to be a vegetarian and wanted to find farm fresh vegetables. I started going to the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market on a semi-regular basis, where I first found edamame (they come in pods on a stick – this was absolutely marvelous and exotic to me), various varieties of kale and chard, freshly made pasta, and, once fall rolled around, pie pumpkins. I dutifully dusted off my Martha Stewart Cookbook, wrestled the pumpkin open, pulled out the seeds, and roasted it. Note that this was the mid-nineties and my access to cooking related resources was actual cookbooks (I had a huge collection, including one book that had all sorts of pumpkin recipes in it – it was something of a revelation that pumpkin had uses other than Thanksgiving pie).
I kept on roasting pie pumpkins and other winter squash, like butternut squash, by dutifully cutting them open, pulling out the seeds and roasting. I had other encounters with winter squash, including discovering the ubiquitous local pumpkin when I lived in the Marshall Islands. Local pumpkin was really Kabocha squash, which I didn’t realize until I’d moved back to the US and joined a CSA. Local pumpkin, or Kabocha squash makes the most heavenly curry, but I digress.
All of this is to say that one day, in the not too distant past, after I had wrestled a pie pumpkin open to roast, I was browsing Pinterest and came across a recipe that has, frankly, changed my life. Ok – not changed my life so much, but definitely made an emergency room visit from trying to cut a very tough winter squash in half much less likely. Here’s the secret – when you need to roast a pumpkin or another winter squash to make a puree, just bake it like you would a baked potato.
That’s it – just put the squash in whole. I’ve done this for years without incident, but if you are worried about the risk of pumpkin explosion in the oven, you can make a few stabs at the squash like you would a potato. Bake it at 350 degrees until it’s easy to pierce with a knife. Let it cool (it’s steamy and hot, so risky to open it too soon and not get a steam burn). Cut it open, scoop out the seeds, scoop out the flesh and either puree it in a blender or mash it up with your hands or a potato masher.
I usually roast two pie pumpkins a season. I freeze it in quart freezer bags in 1 cup serving sizes. I can generally get around 6 cups of pumpkin from two small pie pumpkins.
If you are looking for a way to use up your pumpkin puree, check back in tomorrow when I will post a Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti that will rock your fall. Enjoy!