We are finally smack dab in the middle of October and the fall season, my favorite time of year! Which also means that it is pumpkin season! Everywhere I turn there is pumpkin flavored this and pumpkin flavored that, and trust me I am not complaining. Fall has always been a special time for me, probably because numerous birthday’s in our family are celebrated in the fall, and Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday so there were always great memories made in the fall as a child. I remember every year my mom would get her fall decorations and with those decorations there would be THE pumpkin, the one that she would cook down and make her very famous pumpkin muffins. No joke, these things were sought after by many and always asked for when people were visiting, my childhood friends in particular loved these things! My mom would always cook the pumpkin, puree it, and freeze whatever it was that was leftover in order to make more pumpkin goodies a few months later for Christmas time. A Christmas pumpkin bread is a must! I watched her cook this pumpkin for years and it never even occurred to me that pumpkin also came in cans. Though I did learn that pumpkin came in cans and I do admit to using it fairly often, but starting last year I decided that I also would begin to cook a pumpkin every year to use in my baked goods.
Now theoretically you can use just about any pumpkin for this process, but they do sell special baking pumpkins which are often on the smaller size and are supposed to be a bit sweeter than a typical Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin. Now a days you can typically find them in your local super market, farmers market, or farm stand fairly easily. There are also several different types of squash that people use as well, for this demonstration I used a small baking pumpkin that I found at our local apple orchard/farm stand.
I think the worst part about taking on this process is cutting the pumpkin into chunks. Honestly, however you manage to cut it up as long as the pieces are fairly even in size is fine. As you cut up the pumpkin scoop all the gunk and seeds out of it, but don’t forget to save the seeds to roast! There are various methods people use to cook the pumpkin many of which you can find Here. I chose the baking method and placed the pumpkin chunks in glass pyrex baking dishes with a small amount of water in the bottom. I sprayed the tops of the pumpkin with baking spray to prevent them from drying out too much and placed them in the oven at 425. I baked them for about 1 hour or until they were soft and could be easily pulled off the skin and/or fluffed with a fork.
Next step is to LET THEM COOL! I left these sit for about 45 min while we ate dinner and then I got to the last step. I used a fork to scrap the pumpkin “meat” off of the skin and into the food processor. We have a fairly large food processor, so I was able to do this pumpkin in just two batches, but you may need to split it up into several small batches based on the size of your food processor or blender. Though I have found a food processor to work MUCH better than a blender. (picture below)
Process until the pumpkin is smooth. This required me to put it on for about a min, stop it and stir, then process for about 1 more minute. I then transferred the puree to plastic containers. The best size container to use is 2-4 cups since that is typically how much you will use in a recipe or want to thaw at any given time.
And that is pumpkin baking! It seems hard or like it might be tedious, but it is REALLY easy and well worth the cost and health benefits to use a whole pumpkin to make your own puree!
Don’t forget to roast the pumpkin seeds when the pumpkin comes out of the oven!
We roasted these on a baking sheet with olive oil and a little salt at 425 for about 10 minutes. Watch them VERY closely though, because they can turn quickly and nothing makes your house smell worse than burned pumpkin seeds!
What is your favorite pumpkin recipe?