It’s pumpkin season! Unless you live in a box buried underground and never go online, you already know that.
Last week I did something that only expats would understand: I paid $10 for a can of pumpkin purée. Actually, I paid $20 because I bought two. And I caused a right kerfuffle because the checkout girl didn’t know what they heck they were, the barcode didn’t scan, and when I directed another employee to which shelf it came from in my bad Swedish he ended up on the wrong side of the store.
If you live in a magical land where you can get a can of pumpkin purée for under a dollar why would you bother processing a pumpkin? Well, maybe you wouldn’t. And that’s ok. But maybe you’re keen to try something new. Maybe you’d enjoy the satisfaction of making a pumpkin pie truly from scratch. Maybe you get a kick out of knowing where your food came from. The thing that people forget is that a pumpkin is just a really big squash. Processing one of your own is easy, and depending on the size of your pumpkin it’ll yield a heck of a lot of pumpkin purée.
Four years ago I wrote a post about how to process a pumpkin, which remains one of the most popular posts on this blog (along with how to cook dried beans). That post is buried deep in the archives and has well meaning but terrible photography, so I thought it was time for an update.
The first thing you’ll need is a nice pumpkin. This is a Muscat pumpkin, which is also referred to as a Fairytale pumpkin because it looks like the one Cinderella went to the ball in. You may also seek out a sugar pumpkin, which are great for pumpkin pies. I routinely cook Halloween pumpkins as well (even after they’re already carved!), and have made everything from pies to muffins to taquitos with them.
Cut your pumpkin in half. If it’s really big it may help to take the ends off first, but this one I just chopped right in half. Now roll up your sleeves so you can scoop out the stringy guts and the seeds. Save this gunk in a bowl to sort through later if you want to roast the seeds. There’s so much good nutrition in pumpkin seeds, and they’re delicious to boot! I use my ice cream scoop to scrape out the insides, but any large spoon will do.
Place the pumpkin halves cut side down in a large roasting pan. If your pumpkin is really big you may need to cut it into quarters, and you may need more than one pan. This pumpkin fit into my roasting pan snug as a bug in a rug!
Roast your pumpkin in a 400°F / 200°C oven, for about an hour, or until the pumpkin has collapsed, and the skin is blistered and pulling away from the flesh. There should also be some liquid in the bottom of your pan; the amount will vary depending on how long it has been since your pumpkin left the pumpkin patch. A very fresh pumpkin can hold an amazing amount of liquid. This pumpkin released so much liquid during roasting that it was nearly at the top of the pan!
Once your pumpkin has cooled sufficiently so that you can handle it, peel the skin off of the flesh. The skin should come off quite easily; I normally start at the edge or by pulling up on a blistered section, and it will come off in strips.
Now that you’ve got the skin off, you can purée it, then strain it. In order for your roasted pumpkin purée to have the same consistency as canned pumpkin would, you need to let it drain for a few hours. Line a colander with cheesecloth, set it over a large bowl, and let it be for a while. All that liquid that drains out is nutritional gold, so don’t throw it out! At the very least I use it to water my plants, or if I’m more organized I’ll put it in my smoothies or in a soup.
Once drained you can portion your pumpkin purée into 1-cup servings and stash in the freezer for baking, smoothies, soups, or anything else you’d normally used canned pumpkin for. Pumpkin isn’t acidic enough to safely can in a water bath canner, so unless you’ve got a high pressure canner at home that can reach the extreme temperatures necessary to ensure safety, don’t do it. Botulism is not your friend. Trust me, just freeze it.
You should end up with, depending on the size of your pumpkin, several portions of pumpkin purée. This beauty yielded about 6 cups of purée once it was drained. I divide it into one-cup portions that I freeze and pull out when the mood strikes for pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, muffins, loaves, etc.
So now you know how to process a pumpkin. Have at it! And don’t let that Halloween pumpkin go to waste! It’s food!