When you have children, you get used to all sorts of random requests. Sometimes, they want to know why the sky is blue. Other times, they want to know if earwigs really crawl into your ears. Each day brings something new and you always need to be on your toes. Or at least that’s how it seems to me.
On our pumpkin picking adventure last month, the kids asked me how pumpkins were turned into “the orange stuff we get in the can.” Seeing that we had spent the entire afternoon picking pumpkins, it was a fair enough question.
Unfortunately, the answer I gave them wasn’t received positively. “Well, the ones we picked aren’t turned into pumpkin puree,” I said. “They’re not the right type of pumpkin. So after Halloween, our pumpkins will just become playthings for the chickens.”
This answer of mine did not go over very well. Our kids love their hens, but they weren’t too fond of having to share their prized Jack-o’-lanterns with them.
So I spent the next half hour discussing why we couldn’t turn their pumpkins into pumpkin puree instead of feeding them to the chickens. I had lots of answers for them like “these pumpkins are too big” and “they’re too stringy” and I even tried “they won’t fit in the oven,” but the kids weren’t having any of it.
I could see them starting to get upset, so I offered up a compromise. We were still bopping around on the East End, so I offered to pick up some “pie” pumpkins for them at one of the farm stands before we headed home. This way, we could make some homemade pumpkin puree and use it to make their favorite pumpkin muffins.
Once the kids realized that they got to pick out even more pumpkins, the mood became much more festive again. Problem solved! Now they could use their just-picked pumpkins to make Jack-o’-lanterns and I would use the soon-to-be-purchased pie pumpkins to make some pumpkin puree from scratch.
Although you can make pumpkin puree from regular old Jack-o’-lantern type pumpkins, it’s not the best option. Those pumpkins tend to be watery, stringy and bland. Instead, look for smaller baking and cooking varieties like sugar pumpkins or cheese pumpkins. These are sweeter, more flavorful and have a smoother flesh. Homemade pumpkin puree will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to three days. But if you don’t plan to use it right away, simply freeze it and it will keep for several months.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree from Scratch
- 2 pie pumpkins (about 4-8 pounds)
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 ºF. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
Step 2: Using a very sharp knife, carefully split your pumpkins in half. Scoop out the strings and seeds with a spoon. Save the seeds for toasting later!
Step 3: Place your pumpkin halves, cut side down, on your baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the skins are fork tender. If your pumpkins are closer to eight pounds, you may need to cook them for 90 minutes.
Step 4: Once the pumpkins have cooled, scrape out the flesh and run through a food processor or blender until nice and smooth.