Pumpkin Puree

This year I grew a beautiful pumpkin called the Hopi Pale Grey Squash. I read about it in the Baker Creek seed catalog, and my interest was captured by their description and its rave reviews.

An early season photo of the squash vines before they took over. I cover all of my beds with bird netting in the early season to keep stray cats from pooping in the garden. We have a LOT of stray cats...

The plants were prolific producers and were even mildly resistant to the Downy Mildew that attacked the rest of my squash this summer. I’ve been making pies and sweet bread from these pumpkins like a mad-woman, and I’m still elbow deep in pumpkins left to be eaten.

Here is my system for making pumpkin puree:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Half pumpkin and scoop out all the mush and seeds. Set aside for seed saving. Taylor loves to pick through the goop and find all the good seeds. He is less psyched on giving the seeds back to me when he is done…

3. Rub olive oil on the pumpkin flesh and place flesh down onto baking sheet(s).

4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then test for softness with a fork. If you can easily poke through the skin in several places, then they are done. Otherwise, pop back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes and repeat the test. Obviously baking time will vary by pumpkin size, your oven, and even your altitude- but I’ve never had even my biggest pumpkin take longer than 50 minutes baking to be done.

5. When the pumpkin halves are soft, remove from the oven and let cool until they can be handled without burning you. Then, use a large spoon to scoop and scrape the pumpkin meat from the skin.

What Now?
What you want to do at this point will vary a lot depending on what you are using the puree for and when. Pumpkin puree CANNOT be safely canned at home, even with a pressure cooker – you can freeze it or dehydrate it or use it right away.

Stringy pumpkin puree may need to be run through a blender to get to a smooth consistency for pies. If it is a dry stringy pumpkin (pro tip: the large Hopi Grey Squash are VERY dry and can be stringy), you may need to add water for this to work – which you will then have to strain back out (instruction for straining below).

Straining Excess Moisture 
If you have an overly moist pumpkin or you added water to make a smooth puree, you will want to strain out excess moisture. To do this, you can line a colander with a cheese cloth or clean handkerchief, pour in the pumpkin goop, twist the cloth closed, and place a plate or small weight on top. Then, leave it alone a few hours. You can save the strained pumpkin juice and use it in place of water in bread recipes.

While it’s useful to know these processing tricks, you can usually avoid the extra work by picking the right pumpkin for the right task – overly large pumpkins tend to be more stringy and dry. Use them for breads where this won’t matter. Smaller pumpkins have a sweeter taste and smoother texture. Use them for pies where they can really perform. 

I’ll work on writing up my recipes for pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and a winter squash tort. Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe or processing tip? Feel free to post it in the comments!