It’s fall, my favorite season in Michigan!! That means it’s the start of Comfort Food Season – yay! Time to give the slow cooker residence on the kitchen counter for the next six months and fire up the oven for slow roasting large hunks of meat and baking cinnamon spiced (gluten-free) treats. Yes, this is my happy place.
So I know there are thousands of tutorials on roasting pie pumpkins for puree. Why am I throwing another one out there? Hmm…why not? This method works for me and better yet, it’s really easy! Equipment required is minimal and pretty basic – a sheet pan, parchment paper, a large knife and cutting board, a spoon, an oven, and a food processor or heavy duty blender. The food processor may not be in everyones kitchen, but don’t fret, I will give you other options!
So, another question – why not just use canned pumpkin? Answer – go ahead, I do it all the time! I happen to have a friend who’s niece planted a gigantic organic garden this year and had 7 beautiful pie pumpkins she sent my way. Not one to turn away fresh, local, organic produce, I took on the task of preserving some of this beautiful harvest. There are pros and cons to canned verses fresh pumpkin puree. Pluses for canned include: ready to go when you are, most recipes are written for canned puree, no prep work. Negatives for canned include: possible BPA from the canning process, organic may not be available. Positives for homemade pumpkin puree: you did it yourself (Woot, woot! Pat on the back.), you know where it came from and how it was prepared, you get pumpkin seeds for roasting (BONUS!). Cons for homemade puree: it takes more time then using a can opener, the puree will be a little wetter then canned and may not be a perfect substitute in baking recipes, you have to store it in the freezer which takes up space and means you must defrost before use (Ugh! Planning ahead – not one of my strong points). So, if you want to take the time to do this, great. If not, no worries, just make sure you have an functioning can opener.
How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Depending on the size of your pumpkins, you may be able to fit 2-4 halves on a sheet at a time.
Wash any dirt off of the pumpkins and dry them really well, so they are not slippery. Time to cut.
Make sure you have a flat, solid surface to work on (a large cutting board will do the trick) and a SHARP knife. Don’t mess around with a dull knife. It will make this job way harder and increase the likelihood of chopping off your fingers.
Start by inserting the sharp point of your knife into the pumpkin flesh right next to the stem. I like to hold the stem for stability. Make sure your non-cutting hand is out of the way. Repeat this while cutting – “I will not cut my hand, I will not cut my hand, …”
After slicing down one side of the pumpkin, use the stem as a handle and rotate the pumpkin to it’s side to continue your cut.
Hopefully you now have two pumpkin halves and ten intact digits.
Time to loose the stem. Place pumpkin cut side down. Grab onto the stem with a towel, and snap it off. Hopefully, you will be smarter then I am and will move your very sharp knife away from your hand.
Now, if you choose to take advantage of the bonus pumpkin seeds, this is the time to grab a few extra pieces of equipment. You will need a strainer and two large bowls.
Using a metal spoon, scrape out the pumpkin seeds and stringy flesh. Do not let your perfectionist side make an appearance – some leftover innards are no big deal. In other words, the insides of the pumpkin can be messy and have string attached, just get the seeds out of there. If you are saving your seeds, place the innards in a bowl to tackle once the squash is roasting. See my Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Tutorial.
Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the parchment lined baking sheets and put them into the oven for 45 minutes to one hour. To determine how long to bake them, gently poke them at 45 minutes, if the flesh gives a little through the skin, you are good. If it is still hard, give it more time. Once you have determined that the pumpkin halves are soft enough, remove the sheet pans from the oven and flip the halves over so the cut side is now facing up. Roast them for an additional 15 minutes. This will help to dry them out a little. After 15 minutes, remove the sheet pans from the oven and let the pumpkins rest until they are cool enough to handle. If any water has accumulated in the center of the pumpkins, just pour it out or scoop it out with a spoon.
If using a food processor or blender, scrap out the pumpkin flesh and place it into your device. Puree until smooth. This may take a few minutes and a little prodding. If it just won’t puree, you can add a tiny bit of water to get this going. If you do not have a food processor or high speed blender, you can scrap the puree into a bowl and mash it up with a potato masher, a fork, or your hands. It won’t be as smooth, but it is still delicious and will work just fine in most recipes.
Decide what quantity you want to store the puree in. I did several one cup servings and some two cup servings. Label your freezer bags, measure, and fill. Seal the bags, removing the air and freeze flat to take up as little space as possible.
You did it! You now have pumpkin puree to enjoy throughout Comfort Food Season!
Some ideas for using your delicious, homemade pumpkin puree: