For the first time in three years, I have successfully grown pie pumpkins. It was a matter of finding the right variety of pumpkin to grow in our subtropical heat. Seminole pumpkin is THE variety for Charleston. And is it prolific! I planted two vines, and I’ve harvested seven pumpkins already – with about 16 more on the vine. This past week, I processed those pumpkins into a form fit for the upcoming holiday season’s pies and desserts – pumpkin puree.
Making your own pumpkin puree is not only easy, it’s cost effective. Have you seen the prices on canned pumpkin these days?? Not only that, anything grown in your own garden will ALWAYS taste better than what you buy in a grocery store. And pumpkin is no exception. (Trust me, I did a little tasting as I ran the food processor.)
When making pumpkin puree for baking, be sure you have a pie pumpkin. Some pumpkins are not good for baking. Pie pumpkins are sweet and perfect for those pumpkin pies.
STEP ONE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
STEP TWO: This is actually the most difficult part – which isn’t that difficult if you have a sharp knife. Cut the top off, then quarter the pumpkin.
STEP THREE: With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the stringy flesh around the seeds. Do not throw away the seeds! You can roast your own pumpkin seeds. (Click here for the recipe.)
STEP FOUR: Place the cut pumpkin on a cookie sheet, cut side up. Bake for 45 minutes or until the flesh is fork-tender. (I put two trays of pumpkin in my oven at the same time, and it took a little over an hour for my pumpkin to be tender enough.)
When the pumpkin is done, it will look like this.
STEP FIVE: Remove the roasted flesh from the pumpkin skin. You can use a knife to peel off the skin, or you can scoop out the flesh with a spoon. (I use a spoon.) Do not drain any liquid that may be sitting in the flesh. Put the flesh and any liquid into a food processor to puree. (You can also put it into a bowl and use a potato masher.) If your pumpkin variety is on the dry side, you may have to add a teaspoon or two of water to puree your pumpkin.
Look at this beautiful puree!
STEP SIX: If you’re going to use your pumpkin puree immediately, you’re done. Just add to your recipe. However, if you processed a lot of pumpkin (as I did), you’re going to need to freeze it. I store my puree in sealable sandwich baggies, and each baggie contains one cup of puree. That makes it easy to pull out of the freezer for recipes.
So, how do you get puree in a baggie without making a mess? I found the perfect aid – a sugar bowl. Put the baggie into the sugar bowl and fold the top of the baggie over the lip.
Once the puree is in the baggie, just gently pull up the top of the baggie and voila! No mess.
Remove the air from the baggie as you seal it by squishing the puree almost flat. Your baggie will look like this once it’s sealed.
After all my baggies were full, I put them into a gallon-sized freezer bag. My baggies were not thick like freezer bags, so this gives them another layer of protection. Also, it corrals the pumpkin puree in one place.
I did keep one baggie out to make my Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bake this weekend. The rest is waiting for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pancakes…. Gosh, I love pumpkin! And I can’t wait to see how much better my goodies taste with my own home-grown, home-pureed pumpkin.
Do you grow your own pumpkin? What variety do you grow? What are your favorite pumpkin recipes?