Here’s a quick and dirty little post on how to make your own pumpkin puree to freeze and use throughout the winter. I happen to be using the large crop of butternut squash that I harvested from my garden to make the batch of puree I photographed for this post, but you can use any type of eating pumpkin. Butternut squash, by the way, make a great substitute for pumpkins (really, you’ll never be able to tell the difference in the final dish) and are usually available much longer in the season, both earlier and later, than pumpkins.
I find it’s best to go at the puree-making process in big batches as it is a bit time-consuming and messy whether you’re making a little or a lot so you might as well make a lot, right? But the effort is worth it as fresh pumpkin puree is notably different from the canned stuff you’ll get at the store. The puree is much more vibrant in color, contains a lot more “juice” that adds moisture to your dish, and retains all the amazing vitamins that pumpkin has. Did you know pumpkins are rich in vitamin A, potassium, and fiber? The addition of pumpkin to just about any dish can be considered a very healthy one indeed. This pumpkin puree can be used in pumpkin rolls, pies, smoothies, ice cream, truffles, bread puddings, risotto, soup, sauces… once it’s in your freezer, you can let you mind go free to dream up all the possibilities.
1. Begin by collecting all your pumpkins or butternut squash.
2. Cut all the pumpkins/squash in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon.
3. Here’s where you have a choice to make: steam the halves of pumpkin/squash or roast peeled and cut pieces. The steamed halves make a more moist and vibrant puree while the roasted pieces have a richer flavor and denser consistency. I tend to use the former in savory dishes and the latter in sweets. To steam the pumpkin, place cut side down in a baking dish and add about an inch of water before sliding into a pre-heated 400 F oven. Bake until a fork slides easily into the largest half.
4. Roasting pumpkin pieces is done as follows: Use a good vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove all skin from the flesh. Chunk the flesh into evenly sized pieces (the smaller they are the faster they roast). Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and place pieces in a single layer. I drizzle mine sparingly with extra virgin olive oil and dust them very lightly with brown sugar (about a tablespoon of each) and toss with my hands to coat. This adds a little richness to the puree. Slide into a pre-heated 400 F oven and bake until fork tender.
5. When pumpkin is done baking, remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. For steamed pumpkin, use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender. Roasted pieces can go straight into the processor/blender. Puree until smooth.
6. Get out a bunch of sealable freezer bags and label with contents and date. I fill my bags with measured one cup or two cups of puree so I don’t have to wonder later how much is in a bag when I’m making a recipe. Flatten bags as shown above and freeze flat so they don’t take up so much room in your freezer. Pull out of the freezer a couple of hours to thaw before using.