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Pumpkin Puree

Sugar pumpkinsPumpkins are full of fiber and nutrients. A fairly neutral flavor with so many uses from pancakes to cheesecakes, from savory crepes to savory sauces; your family may not realize how much nutrition-loaded pumpkin they’re eating … unless they start to turn orange.

It’s officially fall, so that means I’m back to my self-imposed pumpkin competition: using 99 cans of pumpkin. Starting at #99, I am now on #48. I wanted to try to make my own puree and bent the rules to allow substitution.  This batch created about 5 c of puree, which will equal cans about 3 cans.

It’s hard to avoid pumpkin-mania; especially in New England. Embrace it. I’m drinking pumpkin-flavored coffee as I type.

The question often asked is fresh or canned? Here are a few of my thoughts…

  • Good baking pumpkins are the key; I’m using Sugar Pumpkins. Stay away from the large pumpkins you use for carving. There’s a reason we carve them into scary faces. You know that popular photo of a carved pumpkin face that appears to be vomiting pumpkin? You’ll look just like that pumpkin if you eat the wrong kind of pumpkin.
  • You can’t use canned in savory dishes that require chunks of vegetables.
  • More than a difference in taste, there’s a difference in texture.
  • Canned pumpkin is creamier, but I’ve found fresh pumpkin puree to be lighter. Having just made my first batch of homemade pumpkin puree, I don’t know if I’ll see a difference in consistency or taste, depending on the pumpkins I buy. There isn’t the same “quality control” or machinated process as in canned.
  • Opening a can is easy. Some canned pumpkin puree, like Libby’s, only contains pumpkin. No salt, no sugar, no flavorings, no preservatives. I’ve bought the organic canned pumpkin at Trader Joe’s and it’s lighter in color than Libby’s, closer to the color of fresh pureed. Libby’s uses Calabaza pumpkin. (Is this different than a Sugar variety? I have no idea.)
  • Be sure not to use canned pumpkin pie mix; those cans contain spices, sugar and eggs. I made this mistake once. Big mistake.
  • Cooking your own pumpkin is more fun and helps to support local farmers and helps to teach your kids where pumpkins come from.

This got me thinking about taste difference. I plan to do a taste test between fresh pumpkin puree and canned in chocolate pumpkin tiramisu.

Pumpkin Puree

pumpkin pureeWhat you need:

  • 6 lbs sugar pumpkin
  • 3-4 tbs EVOO

What you do:

  • Heat oven to 400˚.
  • Line baking sheet with foil.
  • Remove stem and cut pumpkin into quarters.
  • Scoop out seeds and rinse. (save seeds for roasting!)
  • Coat flesh with EVOO.
  • Place pumpkin flesh-side up on baking sheet.
  • Roast until tender, about 45 min.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Scoop flesh into food processor; discard skin.
  • Process until smooth.
  • If too dry, add a little bit of water.
  • If very moist, line a colander with cheesecloth over bowl, pour pumpkin over cheesecloth and drain in refrigerator for a couple of hours.
  • Keep what you plan to use in a sealed container in refrigerator for a few days.
  • Puree will last in freezer up to 6 months.

Hint: Store pre-measured amounts of puree in individual freezer bags for future recipes.