Tuesday night, while watching that Charlie Brown Pumpkin movie on TV, I did something that I highly recommend you try, definitely before Thanksgiving and absolutely tonight if at all possible. It’s classic fall in a way that that will remind you it’s almost Halloween, that there are still snow-free days yet to be enjoyed, that, maybe, just maybe, if you play your cards right and enjoy fall to the fullest, you can keep winter from coming. Armed with two pie pumpkins, some utensils, a big dish and a food processor, I made homemade pumpkin puree.
Remember the apple orchard I visited recently? Well, what I’ve been waiting to tell you is that the orchard was, very conveniently, connected to a pumpkin patch. And as much as I loved picking from bins of juicy apples, I was well near giddy when I searched the patches, a Radio Flyer wagon rolling behind me.
I walked away with $20 of loot: a tall, slenderish orange pumpkin and a big crazy-green one, as well as a handful of smaller, cuter ones that were each remarkably beautiful, if I do say so. I took them home, trying to decide if I should make one a Jack-O-Lantern or use them all for cooking.
Then I did some research. Were you aware that not all pumpkins are best for cooking? No? Well, let me fill you in: apparently, the best pumpkins for recipes are called “pie pumpkins” and you can find them like that labeled in the store. So all the beautiful, carefully picked ones I got at the farm? Two are on my work desk, two are at home and the two big ones are on the front steps—nice decoration but not sliced up for eating. The pumpkins I made puree with? They came from our local grocery store.
Anyway. If you get your hands on some of these pie pumpkins, which, again, please believe me when I say you should, you need to turn them into pumpkin puree. It is easy (most of the time involved is down time, spent with you doing your own thing while the pumpkins cook), triumphant (when the shell peels off the flesh so perfectly, like a jacket that the pumpkin no longer needs, you will shriek with glee, I dare you not to) and, most of all, the beginning of many, many good things to eat.
Here’s what you will do: cut the pumpkins in half (use a serrated knife, and begin on one side, continuing through to the other, then splitting apart the halves with your hands to break the stem) and scoop out their stringy insides. You can save the seeds if you like, and there are many recipes online with ideas of what to do with them.
The best description of instructions I read said something about scraping against the insides of the pumpkin with a metal spoon. I would just add that you shouldn’t feel worried about pushing or scraping too much: you want to get those insides out. After doing this, you just need to put the halves, open-side down, into a large dish or oven-safe container. I lined mine with tin foil and covered it with the same, but a cover works just as well.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 80 minutes. When the pumpkins are roasted, they will be very tender, so a fork could go right into their sides. Take them out, leaving the dish covered, and let them cool.
After the pumpkin halves are cool, you can scoop out their fleshly insides and put it all into a food processor (or, I suppose a blender might work?).
Mix the pumpkin flesh in the food processor until it is smooth and thick. You may want to drain it for a little bit in a strainer, to get rid of excess liquid. I went ahead and put my puree in a tupperware container in the refrigerator and let out some of the extra water the next day. The mixture will keep for a few days in the fridge but longer in the freezer. From two pie pumpkins, I achieved between 3 and 4 cups of puree, I believe.