Friday, October 7, 2011

How To: Make Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkins are abundant during the fall.Pumpkins are a winter vegetable and are another type of squash. They come from the Curcurbita family, which includes other squash as well as watermelons and cucumbers.There are several varieties of pumpkins. The ones we are most familiar with are the large round pumpkins that people carve every year. While they have several names, most people refer to them as jack o lantern pumpkins. This type of pumpkin is closely related to summer squash; with they’re thin walls and stringy flesh. These pumpkins have a tough orange skin and a paler orange, fibrous flesh. While they are great for carving, they are not all that tasty for consuming. This is not saying that you can’t make a pie with them, it just isn’t recommended. Perhaps the best pumpkins for consumption are crooked neck squash. Most of them have tan colored skin and orange flesh. They are not what a person would typically think of as a pumpkin. In fact, butternut squash fits this category and is often found in commercially canned pumpkin puree. A pumpkin that goes by the name of “Cheese pumpkin” is probably the best for making pies. They are found mostly in the New England States, at farm stands and farmers markets. These will not produce a pumpkin puree that doesn’t become grainy or stringy when cooked down, nor does it become very watery. In reality, sugar pumpkins are more easily to find. I recommend using a blend of sugar pumpkins, which are smaller and round, along with butternut squash.

What You Need:

pumpkin or a mixture of pumpkin and squash

What To Do:

Wash the outer skin of the pumpkins and dry well. Cut in half and scoop the seeds. They can be saved and roasted as a yummy snack, otherwise, just toss them. Once the seeds are gone, cut each have in half again so you end up with quarters. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and into an oven. Turn the oven on to 400 and once it reaches temp, cook the pumpkin for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the pumpkin to be soft, but not mushy. This step does a few things. It starts the cooking process, starts to caramelize the sugars in the pumpkin making it sweeter, and soften the skin so that it’s easier to peel. Remove from the oven and once it’s cool to the touch, take a pairing knife and start removing the skin. Place the now skinless pumpkin into a steamer basket, or a colander over a pot that it large enough to hold it without it sitting completely inside. Put a few inches of water in the bottom and turn the heat to high. Steam for about 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is completely done, nice and soft. Then you can either transfer to a bowl and puree using an imersion or stick blender, or using a stand up blender. Once it’s completely cool once more, transfer to air tight containers or zip top bags in two cup quantities. Two cups is about 1 15-16oz can of pumpkin.

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