Halloween is over and time to smash some pumpkins to make pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie. I’ll take you through the steps on how to make your own pumpkin puree for pies, breads and other pumpkiny treats. I did the four pumpkins on the left in the picture above. The four on the right were not ripe enough when they were picked from our garden. You can also see my rosemary that I need to dehydrate before the indoor heat dries out the plant.
I also made several pumpkins yo-yo’s for my Halloween wall hanging that I finally finished. I started this wall hanging on Halloween and worked on it almost every day since. So it’s taken me about 12 days to complete it, but I’m happy with the way it turned out and I learned a lot along the way. Today I created the sleeve for hanging and attached it to the back of the quilt. I wish I’d thought about doing it BEFORE I put the binding on.
On Monday when I was smashing real pumpkins I was making the yo-yo pumpkins for this wall hanging. See the little pumpkins in front of the four large pumpkins? The little ones are yo-yo’s and pinned on to the quilt so they can be removed before washing the wall hanging.
Back to the real pumpkins now. The first step is to wash the pumpkins with plain water. We grew these pumpkins in our garden. They are much smaller than jack-o-latern pumpkins. These are called “Sugar Pumpkins” and are specifically grown for using in pumpkin pies. They have a tougher skin and each pumpkin yielded 2 cups (16 ounces) of puree, enough for a pie recipe.
The next step is to slice off the stem so you aren’t trying to cut through the tough woody part of the pumpkin when you cut the pumpkin in half. Once you’ve cut it in half then you want to scoop the seeds and pulp out of the center of the pumpkin. I use the side of a tablespoon and hold the spoon lower on the handle, close to the spoon, which gives me better leverage.
I prepared two baking pans with parchment paper that I lightly greased with coconut oil. I prefer the parchment paper over aluminum foil because the foil can stick and small pieces can be left on the pumpkin flesh. I don’t know about you but I prefer to avoid aluminum in my diet. I grease the parchment paper to make it easier to seperate the pumpkin from the paper. The pans are much easier to clean up when you lined them first.
I lay the pumpkin halves flesh side down in the pan to avoid the flesh from drying out to much in the oven. I want the puree to be moist enough that it is easy to mash without adding water or anything that would dilute the flavor of the pumpkin. Some people put water in the pan but I prefer to place a separate dish in the oven with water so the oven is kept moist but the pumpkin isn’t sitting in water. Again, I don’t want to dilute the flavor.
I baked my pumpkins for 90 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit. To tell if they are done, stick a fork in the flesh and if the pumpkin is soft enough for the fork to penetrate then they are done. If you cook them to long the skin will break down and be difficult to peel away from the flesh. If not cooked enough then the flesh will be hard to peel from the skin and they will be to hard to mash.
Once they are cooked let them sit and cool before attempting to handle. They are HOT! Once cooled you can easy peel away the skin from the flesh. Break the flesh into smaller chunks and put in a food processor or blender. Using the pulse speed, blend the flesh until it looks like baby food, that’s puree. If your pumpkin is dry you may need to add a tablespoon of water to blend to a creamy puree.
My larger pumpkins each made about 2 cups (16 ounces) of puree. I labeled zipper freezer bags with the contents, the date, and the amount. When I get ready to make my pies I’ll know how much is in each bag and will only defrost the amount needed.
There’s nothing like the taste of pumpkin pie using your home made pumpkin puree. Last year everyone said my pumpkin pies were the best they had ever tasted and I agreed. That was the first year I made my own pumpkin puree instead of using canned pumpkin. The other secret is….wait it’s a secret…I can’t tell you. At least not yet.