It is easier than you think to make and preserve pumpkin puree. Take advantage of the sales and store it for months. Fall meals should not be without it!
If you are interested in using pumpkin for more of your healthy meals this fall, why not make your own puree? Making your own can save money and is the cleanest option since nothing is processed and packaged. It is actually a lot simpler than you might think.
Choose and Prep the Pumpkin
Before you get to making your pumpkin puree, you have to begin with a few preparation steps. This starts with selecting the right pumpkin. Keep in mind that you are going to be roasting the pumpkin in the oven after cutting it in half or into quarters, so you will need it to be small enough to fit properly. It is better to go with many small pumpkins than just one massive pumpkin, or it is difficult to cut and roast.
The best pumpkins for baking have names like Baby Bear and Baby Pam, although you won’t recognize them by name. Instead look for the small sugar pumpkins that a just the right size for toddlers to tote around. Though all pumpkins are edible, some are better for cooking depending on their flavor and consistency. Others are better used as table decorations, or even as an alternative soup bowl.
After selecting your pumpkin, cut them in half and remove the pulp and seeds from the center. Keep the seeds in a separate bowl if you intend to roast them later. Remove at least most of the flesh and seeds from the pumpkin, though don’t worry if there is a little remaining. Removing the seed is not as important as when you are planning to carve a pumpkin.
Roasting Your Pumpkin
Once you have cut open your pumpkin and removed the seeds and pulp, you are ready to roast it. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees F and while the oven is preheating, grab a baking sheet and put the pumpkin halves directly on it. There is no need to use parchment paper or aluminum foil unless you want to have a quick cleanup. If you chose a giant pumpkin, you might need to cut it into quarters and possibly use more than one baking sheet.
When the oven is preheated, put the pumpkin in the oven and roast for about 30-45 minutes, or until it is tender. You can quickly test this with a fork. Your pumpkin flesh should be a light golden brown color when roasting is complete.
This process will work with other winter squash varieties like Butternut, Acorn, Buttercup, Hubbard, and Carnival. Why not try a new variety this year? Each of those mentioned above can replace pumpkin in pies, soup, and baked goods. See a visual of the varieties of winter squash in this picture from Cherry Capital Foods. Be creative with your cooking and use one of them!
Making the Pumpkin Puree
When the winter squash is soft and can be poked with a fork, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Once it cools, you can start making your puree. Remove the skin from the pumpkin or scoop out the flesh. The skin should be easy to remove now that it is thoroughly roasted.
Get out your food processor and start placing large chunks of pumpkin inside. You may need a little water to add to the puree and the pumpkin so it will blend easier and turn into puree easily. There is no need to mash it ahead of time unless your food processor is small (like mine.) In that case, you can also mash it first with a fork or potato masher before running it through the process.
The finished puree will store in the refrigerator, in a tight-lidded container for at least a week. You can expect to get 4 cups of raw peeled and cubed pumpkin from one pound of fresh pumpkin, and about one cup cooked then mashed or pureed pumpkin. So, a 5-pound fresh pumpkin will make between 4 and 5 cups of roasted puree or mashed pulp.
2 Ways to Store Pumpkin Puree (and 1 way not to store it)
Freeze it – If you frequently cook with pumpkin during the fall season, it will be to your advantage to purchase winter squash, cook it, and once it is pureed, divide it into portions to freeze for later. You need about 3 and a half cups of pumpkin mash to make a large pie. Use freezer ready zip-top bags for short-term (3 months) storage. Freezing pumpkin ahead of time will get you through the holiday baking season.
Dehydrate it – If you are short on freezer space, dehydrating is another way to quickly preserve winter squash and have it ready when you need it. Follow the directions above and once the puree is complete transfer the mash to dehydrator sheets. Similar to making sweet potato flour, you can dry it at 125 degrees F for 8 to 16 hours and then powder it. This dried squash can be used as a 1 to 1 replacement for flour in baked goods or rehydrated with hot water to make a mashed pumpkin mix. Use it for baking just like fresh.
Another option is to dry one cup portions in small “pucks” and stack them inside containers until you are ready to use them. Put parchment paper between the pieces and keep moisture away. This vegetable leather will store for up to 6 months in the pantry. When ready to use, place a puck (or two) in a bowl and add boiling water until it returns to the consistency you want.
The one way you CANNOT preserve pureed pumpkin, or any other winter squash is by canning it. According to the Center for Home Food Preservation, the only acceptable way to can pumpkin and winter squash is in a pressure canner when they are cubed.