Pumpkin Purée

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      Pumpkin Puree

      Making your own pumpkin puree for pies, breads, soups, or any other cooking or baking use is easy. Most canned pumpkin combines squash and pumpkin and is a noticeably different product with an inferior taste and it tends to be denser, which is why many recipes that call for canned pumpkin also specify adding water. When using homemade puree, you can usually reduce or eliminate any water specified.
      Be sure to use the right kind of pumpkin for your puree. A smaller pie pumpkin is the easiest, and I often do two at once. I also like "peanut" pumpkin, which depending on size, might have to be baked one half at a time, or fairy tale pumpkin, which, if large, will also require baking one half at a time. As I try different kinds of pumpkins, I will add them to this recipe. I do not recommend the "Cinderella" pumpkin, as the amount of water does not make it worth all the work.
      When buying a pumpkin, buy one with the stem intact; it will keep longer. When ready to use, the dry stem can usually be whacked off on a sturdy countertop.
      You will need a knife that can cut through the pumpkin's shell. I use a Kuhn-Rikon knife that has a large, serrated edge that is designed for cutting pumpkins and squash.
      To clean out the strings and seeds, I use a grapefruit spoon.
      I roast my pumpkins in heavy Calphalon roasting pans. I have a small one, 14x11 inches and 2 ½ inches deep, and a large one, 16x13 inches and 3 inches deep. I can fit two halved pie pumpkins in the large one. The pie pumpkins do not have lots of water, so they could be done on a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. The peanut pumpkin and fairy tale pumpkins have more water, so higher sides are a good idea.


      Preheat the oven to 325F.

      Wash the outside of the pumpkin and dry. Break the stem off by hitting it on the counter. Using a large, heavy-duty knife, cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scrape out the strings and seeds using a grapefruit spoon. You may need to cut some of the strings.

      Place the pumpkin cut side down in the baking pan. Bake for at least 1 hour, but more time may be needed, depending on the size of the pumpkin. When the outside can be pushed in at the highest part, the pumpkin is done. Remove pan from the oven.

      Turn over the pumpkin halves so that the cut side is up. I find that a wide spatula helps. It may stick a bit but dislodge it and invert it. Allow to cool until you can handle it.

      Move a half to a cutting board. Use a large spoon to scoop out the puree and put it into a food processor, in batches, depending on size of your processor. Process until smooth, transfer to bowl, then finish processing the rest.

      If not using immediately, refrigerate or freeze in the portions you will need for what you plan to bake.

      Wash and dry the pumpkin and break off the stem if possible. (For a large pumpkin, you may need to cut it first.) Cut in half lengthwise. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, your pans, and your oven, you may need to bake half at a time, with cut side down. A large pumpkin may take 90 minutes to two hours. It is done when the highest part can be pushed down or starts collapsing.

      Peanut Pumpkins and Fairy Tale pumpkins have more water than pie pumpkins. I pour off any water that is in the pan, but as it cools, it will release more water. I scrape out the pumpkin, and BEFORE using the food processor, I put it into a strainer over a bowl and allow it to drain,

      When the amount of water coming out has diminished, puree the pumpkin in a food processor. Use, refrigerate, or freeze.

      I have used the pie pumpkin puree and the fairy tale pumpkin puree in pies. The latter makes a slightly lighter pie using my recipe. I also use this puree for other baking as well. I did not think the peanut pumpkin did as well in terms of texture in a pie, but I think it is spectacular in baked goods.

      Although I have seen many articles about roasting seeds and eating them, and have tried several, I have never managed to produce a tasty result, and I find eating them yucky, with the shells (which there is no good way of removing) tending to get stuck between teeth. I either discard the seeds or put them out for the squirrels, chipmunks, and crows who seem to appreciate them. Other birds seem to like the stringy part.

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