Fall is my favorite time of year. I enjoy the colors, the haunted houses, the fruit farms and pumpkin patches. I don’t even mind raking leaves. All piled up, the tree litter becomes an afternoon of fun for my daughter.
I used to love fall because it marked the beginning of basketball season. As I’ve grown into adulthood and motherhood, I love it because there’s so much to do with my daughter.
Over the weekend, we visited a local pumpkin patch where we found some monster pumpkins for the porch. But after we found large pumpkins to carve into jack-o-lanterns, my daughter decided we needed some small decorative pumpkins for the flower bed. And after we settled on a dozen tiny pumpkins, she decided we should get a couple pie pumpkins for baking.
When she initially picked them up I told her to put them back. There’s no way I’m going to take the time to make pumpkin puree. However, after further research, it’s really not that difficult.
So we got a couple pie pumpkins, too.
Picking your pumpkins
Picking the right pumpkins for baking and cooking is as important as anything you do after. You want to use pie and sugar pumpkins for cooking. You can select the best ones by considering color weight, stem length and skin appearance.
Color. When it comes to pumpkin skin the darker it is, the tougher it is. Dark orange pumpkins will last longer.
Weight. Pick pumpkins that feel heavier than they look. They have more flesh and thicker skin. They will dehydrate slower and stay fresh longer.
Stem length. The stem is a good indicator to the overall health of a pumpkin. A strong stem is a good sign of a healthy pumpkin, whereas a brittle stem that breaks off or no stem at all means the pumpkin was stressed for water and nutrients. Pumpkins without a stem won’t last long and those with soft stems may have started to rot. Select a pumpkin with at least 1 to 2 inches of stem.
Skin appearance. Chose a pumpkin with firm, spot free skin. Soft spots can indicate the pumpkin has already started to rot and pumpkins with holes and cuts will generally rot sooner.
Preparing your pumpkins
After you’ve picked the perfect pie or sugar pumpkins for your puree, you can start preparing by removing the stems with a sharp knife. Next, cut your pumpkin in half to remove the seeds and stringy guts.
If you’d like to roast the seeds, rinse them off and let them dry out on a paper towel for about a half hour. Season them to your preference, bake at 275 F for 10 to 20 minutes until golden brown and enjoy!
Cooking your pumpkins
You can either boil, bake or microwave your pumpkins to get their flesh soft enough to make a puree.
- Rinse your pumpkin in cold water and cut it into large chunks.
- Place chunks in a large pot with one cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until the chunks are tender. You can also choose to steam the chunks for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Make sure the chunks are cooked thoroughly by poking them with a fork.
- Drain the cooked pumpkin, and prepare to make your puree. You may choose to save the cooking water as a base for soup.
- Rinse your pumpkin halves in cold water and place cut side down on a large cookie sheet.
- Bake the halves at 350 F for an hour until they are tender when tested with a fork.
- Place rinsed pumpkin halves on a microwave-safe plate or tray.
- Microwave on high for 15 minutes and check tenderness with a fork.
- If necessary, continue cooking at 1- to 2-minute intervals until pumpkin flesh is tender.
How to make pumpkin puree
Once you’ve cooked your pumpkins thoroughly, you’re ready to make pumpkin puree. If you’re processing the pumpkins to get a specific amount of puree for a recipe, remember that one pound of raw, untrimmed pumpkin yields one cup of finished pumpkin puree.
- When your pumpkins are cool enough to handle, remove their peels using a small knife and your fingers.
- Once the peel is removed cut your halves or chunks into smaller pieces.
- Use a food processor or potato masher to puree the cooked pumpkin.
- In addition to using it in recipes calling for pumpkin puree, you can substitute it in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.
Storing leftover pumpkin puree
The best way to store leftover pumpkin puree is to freeze it.
Freezing pumpkin puree
- Measure 1 cup portions into ridged freezer containers leaving a half inch of headspace or pack into ziplock bags.
- Label, date and freeze at 0 F for up to a year.
- Here’s the scoop on cooking and baking with pumpkin
- Pumpkin season: Picking, cooking and preserving fall’s favorite fruit