Make Your Own: “Canned” Pumpkin
This time of year I use a lot of pumpkin. It ends up in pie, bread, lasagne, pasta and soup, just to name a few things. Many years ago I realized how easy it was to make my own pumpkin puree and I rarely, if ever, buy canned pumpkin anymore. There’s nothing at all wrong with canned pumpkin. It has a little more water in it, then my own puree, and it’s generally not really made from pumpkin but some other squash, but that’s not an issue. I just like making my own.
And it’s pretty easy to do. You really only need an oven and a food processor or blender, although the food processor works much better.
There are four steps:
- Clean and roast the pumpkin
- Cool and then remove the skin
- Puree in a food processor or blender (you actually can do this by hand but check my note below)
- Measure and place in storage containers and then freeze
1. I like using sugar pumpkins because they are small, easy to cut and clean. But really any pumpkin will work. Most sugar pumpkins that you find at stores or markets are just a couple of pounds. They only need to be cut in half before cleaning and roasting. Larger pumpkins should be cleaned and then cut into manageable pieces.
Place the pumpkins flesh-side down on baking sheets and roast at 400⁰F until tender, like a baked potato would be. For a sugar pumpkin it will take 45 – 60 minutes.
2. If you use sugar pumpkins, placing the pumpkin flesh-side down while baking has two benefits: the pumpkins actually steam while they roast which decreases the roasting time and it makes removing the skin really easy. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle you should be able to pull the skin from the flesh. If you look at the photo at the top you’ll see the pumpkin halves with the skin still on them are kind of wrinkly. This is because the flesh and skin have separated. For larger pumpkins that were cut into several pieces much of the skin will pull away cleanly but you may need to use a paring knife to get all of it.
3. Fill the food processor about half way full with pumpkin pieces. (Break up the halves or pieces into smaller pieces.) Process until smooth. I generally use pulse to help get all the pieces processed and sometimes need to push a stubborn piece or two down into the blade area. Be careful not to over process. You want a little texture left in the puree, but no lumps or pieces of pumpkin.
If you are using a blender you’ll probably need to add a little water to the pumpkin before processing. Try to keep the water to a minimum but make sure you have enough so that all pieces get blended.
As mentioned above you can mash the pumpkin manually at this point. It will mash really easily. However, pumpkin is fibrous and if you don’t get the fibers broken up when you cook with it the texture will not be pleasant. If you mash it by hand you should also run it through a chinois to make sure your puree has the proper texture.
4. The final step is simply to place the pumpkin is something that is freezer safe. I mostly use sandwich bags but sometimes use the clear deli-type containers, if I have some around. I generally measure out 2-cup portions since that is the perfect amount for the pumpkin bread, a pie or the lasagne and will work for many of the other recipes I make. I would not freeze larger portions but you may want to do 1-cup portions for a little more flexibility. The sugar pumpkins generally yield about 4 cups of puree. I’m sure you can also can pumpkin in jars, but I never have.
Don’t forget to label your containers with the contents and date so when you find them shoved in the back of the freezer – as you know will happen at some point! – you’ll know exactly what you have.