Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkins: Not just for carving

On Wednesday between the hours of 4:30pm and 1:30am, I spent the time baking and puréeing two very large pumpkins.  They were originally purchased for the sole purpose of carving, but never made it that far.  Last Halloween the same thing happened and the pumpkins ended up rotting, which I felt terrible about.  I don't know about you, but I really hate letting food in any form go to waste.  I just cleaned out my fridge and it wasn't a happy sight.

This year things would be different.  All I could think about when I saw these large orange boulders on my table was how many pies they might be worth.  Sure it's not quite as easy as buying a can of pumpkin (and maybe not quite as cheap either when you consider the oven cost) but at least I wasn't going to buy canned pumpkin and let these fresh ones rot.

As I usually do when faced with a new situation dealing with food and preservation, I hit up the Laurel's Kitchen cookbook my dad bought (and I confiscated) years back.  When I found nothing there, I googled it.

Side note--when did "googling" become a verb?

Here is my version of how to bake and purée pumpkins gathered from various sources.  Please note that I'm no culinary artist.  I'm just getting the job done.

1.  Cut pumpkins in half vertically so the stem is cut in half.  This makes it easier to clean and bake, in my opinion.  

2.  Scoop all the goop out, saving pumpkin seeds in a separate bowl for roasting.  

3.  Place the pumpkin cut-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Doing this is like putting a lid on water so it boils faster.  It keeps all the heat in the pumpkin and I noticed it cooked a lot faster this way.  Then cover with foil, so as to keep the outside from burning and again, keep the heat "in."

4.  Turn the oven to 350 degrees and put your pumpkin in.  I don't let it preheat because when baking pumpkin your ultimate goal is to soften it enough to purée and preheating wastes energy if it isn't necessary.  

5.  Let your pumpkin bake.  Depending on the size of your pumpkin, it can take anywhere from 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours.  When it's done, it should be caving in a little which indicates it's soft enough to purée.  Take it out of the oven and let it cool.  I suggest 20 minutes of cooling time.

6.  Once you have let the pumpkin cool to where you are comfortable handling it, start scooping the insides out and place in a blender or food processor.  You should be able to get every little bit of the pulp while leaving a thin skin from the outside of the pumpkin.  Fill your blender to about 2/3-3/4 full, put the lid on and hit "purée."  The pumpkin is ready when it's smooth and there are no chunks left in the blender.

7.  You can store your pumpkin in the freezer or refrigerator.  If storing in the refrigerator, put in an airtight container and keep for 7-10 days (or so).  If storing in the freezer, fill freezer bags and store for 2-3 months.

Here are a few websites I found helpful.  

Happy puréeing!


  1. I am so happy you are using up your pumpkins! I have one more to clean up and do this year. I have one bag of Puree left from last November (it is fine as long as there is no ice crystals that build up in the bag). I just made pumpkin bread with what was left so this last one will be this years pie. :) I burnt my batch of seeds this year because I forgot them but I get another try with the last one. Hope you had fun and find some great things to make!

  2. I've wondered about using the pumpkin puree in pumpkin bread. Someone was talking to me the other day about it and said it never really cooked but it's good to know someone has made it work! I'm going to strain it once it defrosts.


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