Fall means pumpkin, right? Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin everything! And it makes sense, because fall is when pumpkin is ripe. Or it used to make sense. These days the pumpkin we use for recipes is often the canned variety and quite likely from seasons past. (Think about it: If pumpkins in the field are just ripening now, where did that big stockpile of canned pumpkin come from? Not this year’s crop, that’s for sure!) And those cans it comes in? They’re likely lined with BPA. The good news is, making homemade pumpkin puree is pretty painless.
We use locally grown kabocha pumpkin, which we’ve found to be excellent in our favorite pumpkin desserts. You can use pumpkins from your garden or whatever you can find locally. You can even — gasp! — use other winter squash. According to this, that’s probably what you’re getting in canned pumpkin anyway.
Making Homemade Pumpkin Puree
- Cut pumpkin in half. (Honestly, this is probably the hardest part! I recommend a sharp knife.)
- Scoop out seeds. If it’s an heirloom variety, you can save seeds for replanting. You can also make roasted pumpkin seeds for a snack.
- Place pumpkin halves flat side down in a baking dish or on a jelly roll pan.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. This will depend on the size of your pumpkin and oven temperature is a bit flexible. Ideally, you’ll bake your pumpkin when you’ve already got your oven on for something else to save energy.
- Use a knife to test for doneness. They should be quite soft. I often turn the oven off and leave the pumpkins in it to continue cooking in the residual heat.
- Allow pumpkin to cool.
- Scoop flesh out of shell with a spoon. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cooked pumpkin for future use. (It is NOT safe to can pumpkin, even if you use a pressure canner.)
The cooked pumpkin will be a bit more coarse than the canned variety at this point. Mixing it into a recipe usually smooths it out sufficiently, but if you need a really fine puree you can pop it into a food processor, blender, or tackle it with a potato masher before you use it.
Incidentally, parents: You’ve just made homemade baby food! (My boys loved pumpkin puree when they were babies.)