It’s winter squash season at the farmers’ markets, and time to scoop up those perfect pumpkins while they’re fresh! Learn how to make pumpkin puree at home from those beautiful roly poly squashes!
A few years ago, there was a pumpkin shortage in the U.S., and shelves that were normally stuffed with those familiar cans of Libby’s pumpkin purée were empty. All season long [gasp!].
That’s when I learned to make my own, from fresh pumpkins.
Pie pumpkins — or sugar pumpkins, as they’re sometimes called — are smaller and sweeter than Halloween’s huge Jack O’ Lantern field pumpkins (which are also quite grainy, for cook purposes). Pie pumpkins are widely available at grocery stores and farmers’ markets, from September through the holidays.
I scored these two babies for $1 apiece at a nearby front-yard produce stand — a bargain in my area, as that’s cheaper than even a can of the store’s generic brand of purée (a pie pumpkin usually yields more puree than a commercial 15 ounce can). Plus, they were organically grown mere miles from my house, by a fellow home gardener who produces enough to sell to the neighborhood.
The best part: the puree itself is so easy to make. Pie pumpkins are much easier to handle than field pumpkins — a chef’s knife will make a clean, single cut through the squash (no “sawing” needed), and a serrated grapefruit spoon makes quick work of removing the pulp and seeds (no more difficult than deseeding a cantaloupe).
Roast the pumpkin in the oven, scrape the flesh from the skin, and mash with a large fork or puree in a blender. Done! Use immediately in your recipe, or bag it up in one-cup quantities and freeze it (where it lasts for months and bakes up wonderfully after thawing).
My 2 3/4 pound pumpkin produced 3 cups of puree; a can of Libby’s contains only 1 3/4 cups.
Oh! And while you have all of those lovely pumpkin seeds piled on your cutting board, don’t forget that they make fabulous snacks. Clean them free of the stringy pumpkin pulp with a quick rinsing in a sieve, and roast them in the oven with your favorite seasonings. I make these Honey Sriracha Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with pumpkin seed leftovers — they’re hopelessly addictive (but healthily so, lol).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice the pumpkin in half vertically, starting with a cut next to the stem. (If the stem is long, slice it off at its base.) Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp using an ice cream scoop, a sharp-edged spoon, or a serrated grapefruit spoon. If you’d like, slice each pumpkin half into two wedges – it will cook a bit faster.
Arrange the pumpkin pieces in a baking dish, skin side up, and add water to cover the bottom by 1/4”.
Place the dish in the oven and bake for 45 to 70 minutes. Total baking time will vary, depending on the size of the pumpkin and the thickness of its walls. Begin checking for doneness at the 45 minute mark: a knife inserted into the outer pumpkin skin will yield easily, and the flesh will be orange and tender.
Remove from the oven and cool.
When the pieces can be safely handled, scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin. Purée in a blender or by hand with a large-tined fork.
Use immediately or keep in the refrigerator for several days. For long-term storage, freeze in a heavy-duty bag or container.
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