Now that fall is here pumpkin flavored treats are everywhere - muffins, pancakes, smoothies, lattes, etc, etc! Instead of buying a can of pre-made pumpkin puree you can easily make your own. Once you have homemade pumpkin puree the baking and cooking options are endless! Toasting your own pumpkin seeds is a delicious bonus to making your own puree too.
Step 1: Ingredients and Supplies
All you need to make pumpkin puree is one (or more!) sugar pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins tend to be firmer, less stringy, and smaller than carving pumpkins. You don't want to use a carving pumpkin due to its stringiness.
The number of pumpkins you buy will all depend on how much puree you want to make. A rough estimate is that one small sugar pumpkin will make the equivalent amount of puree as a 15 oz can. I decided to use two sugar pumpkins so I could make multiple pumpkin dishes with the puree.
Things will be much easier in the pumpkin puree world if you have (or have access to) a sharp knife, a roasting (oven safe) pan, a spoon, and a blender or food processor.
Now is a great time to preheat your oven to 375°F.
Step 2: Cut the Pumpkin in Half
Before cutting your pumpkin, make sure you are using a sharp knife. Pumpkins and squash can be difficult to cut - having a sharp knife will make things easier and safer. Next, remove the stem if there is one. You can either twist it off with your hand or cut it off with a knife. Then, cut your pumpkin in half from top to bottom (not side to side).
Step 3: Scoop Out the Gunk
To scoop out the pumpkin guts, a metal spoon works great. I tried using a large serving spoon at first and soon realized it was too big. A regular metal spoon was perfect. It is important that you scoop out all of the seeds and 'bad gunk' (see photo). If you scrape too much you will start removing the 'good gunk' (see photo), or the meat of the pumpkin that will become puree.
Set the gunk aside if you want to take the extra steps to toast the seeds for tasty snacking. If you don't - toss that gunk in the compost. Or feed it to your chickens. Or if you have a parrot they might enjoy some pumpkin goop for a sweet treat.
Step 4: Steam in the Oven
Place your pumpkin(s) face down in the oven-safe pan. Pumpkins don't really have faces (not until they're jack-o-lanterns anyway) so make sure the inside of your pumpkin is down and the outer skin is facing up. Fill the pan with approximately 1/2" of water. Then cover the dish with foil and place in the oven, which should be preheated to 375°F.
They can cook in the oven anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Set your timer to 45 minutes and check them. They are done when a fork easily slides through the outer skin and the meat of the pumpkin feels very soft. The outer skin will look a bit darker and shinier as well.
The two pumpkins I used took 1 hour.
Let the cooked pumpkins cool until they are easy to handle before you move onto the next step. 15 - 20 minutes should be sufficient.
Step 5: Scrape Out Cooked Pumpkin
Using a spoon, scrape out the cooked pumpkin. If the pumpkins are cooked enough, the meat of the pumpkin should pull away from the skin very easily. Discard the skin of the pumpkin (compost, chickens, parrot, etc.) and place the cooked pumpkin into a bowl or blender.
Step 6: Blend/Puree Cooked Pumpkin
Put the cooked pumpkin into the blender or mixer and let 'er rip! Because the pumpkin is relatively soft at this point, it shouldn't take too long. You will know you are done blending when the puree is free of chunks.
Now the pumpkin puree is complete and ready to use in whatever recipe you please!
Some of my favorites are pumpkin cinnamon rolls, pumpkin rice pudding, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin smoothies.
Step 7: Toast the Seeds (Optional)
Remove any gunk from the seeds. This can be very tedious. Once you are completely fed up with removing orange gunk from your pumpkin seeds, give them a good rinse in a strainer. Place them into a clean bowl and toss them with a little olive oil and salt. If you want to make a sweet snack I recommend adding some cinnamon and sugar. You don't need a lot of salt and make sure all the seeds are lightly coated with oil. You can always add more salt after toasting them.
Turn the oven down to 325°F and spread the seeds out on a baking sheet lined with foil. The foil simply makes cleaning the pan really easy. Bake for 10 minutes then stir the seeds and spread back out. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the seeds are a light golden brown.
The inside of the seed (pumpkin kernel) actually cooks faster than the outside. If you cook the seeds until the outside is dark brown the inside will be burnt and your seeds won't taste very good.
If you have the luxury of having two ovens, this is a great step to do while your pumpkin is cooking.