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Monday, October 22, 2012

pumpkin puree

Here's another way of avoiding buying costly cans that are also wasteful on energy resources. Most people love pumpkin pie. I love pretty much pumpkin anything -- that is, anything except coffee. Starbucks has a weird and deformed thing going on with that pumpkin spice chai latte, if you ask me. I do have a gorgeous recipe for pumpkin pound cake that is moist and delectable as can be, and I plan to try out pumpkin muffins soon, so watch for an upcoming post. Buy why buy cans of pumpkin puree when you can make the stuff at home for less than 1/3rd of the cost? Cheaper on your wallet, not to mention it tastes about 5 times as good when it is from scratch. And it really is easy, I promise. I started doing this as a university student in England, where every penny counted a lot, canned pumpkin for pies (or anything else) was just about unheard of, and I had an American friend who was feeling desperately homesick and couldn't return home for Thanksgiving. I found myself making things up as I went along that first time, but it worked! And it was delicious.

First, buy a pumpkin. I am not overly picky about where I get mine. This year, I bought two pumpkins each about the size of a basketball through my Bountiful Basket order at the beginning of October. Make sure the outside is intact and there are no questionable parts on the gourd, but other than that any old pumpkin should do.

Next, cut it in half. Use some elbow grease and a big, sharp knife. (Please, please, use sharp knives. Either get your man to keep them sharp for you, as mine so sweetly does, or take the time once a week to check through your knives and sharpen any dull ones. Believe me, a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, not to mention less irritating.)

Cleaning the inside of the pumpkin doesn't take much. Get rid of the seeds and as much of the loose fibers as you can using a large spoon. Don't worry about scraping it hard, though. It all cooks up and will puree down quite easily.

Place the pumpkin halves cut side down onto non-stick baking sheets, and then into the oven at 400F. Roast for approximately one hour, or until the skin is partially blackened.

Remove trays. Let cool. Peel the skin and discard, leaving behind soft cooked pumpkin flesh.
At this point, I usually cut the pumpkin into large chunks and toss them directly into ziplock bags for freezing. If you would like to continue the puree process, go for it!

Use a food processor, or an immersion wand blender, or just some muscle and a potato masher or butter cutter to mash and break down the pumpkin into mush. You can leave it chunky or make it perfectly smooth. Add spices to taste. I suggest 1 Tb cinnamon, 2 tsp allspice and 1 tsp nutmeg per 3 cups of plain puree. At this point, if you want to bake pies, add your sugar or honey, evaporated milk and eggs to the spiced pumpkin puree and bake. One deep dish pie requires roughly 3 cups of puree. Or, ladle puree into labelled containers in portion sizes for freezing.

See how simple that was? As you can see in my photo, you can do the same for butternut squash, or many other types of squash, as you can for pumpkin. Butternut makes a delicious alternative to pumpkin in the same types of recipes, too.

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