My daughter is in love with fall. So when we went to the local farm stand, she begged for a pie pumpkin. She chose a really good one. It yielded about 4 cups of puree so I can do a lot with it! But let’s back up a bit.
Prepare and Bake
First, I have to break that baby open and bake it. Yes, you read correctly, before you can bake a pumpkin pie, you must bake the pumpkin. It’s pretty standard, really. Use a large knife and cut the pie pumpkin into quarters. Scoop out all of the seeds and guts, just as you do for a carving pumpkin. It’s easier because you’re not trying to get all that stuff out of a tiny hole at the top. (Save the seeds! We’ll get to those at the end.)
I generally line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil because then I don’t have to clean anything. Place the four quarters of the pumpkin on the aluminum foil and pop it into an 350°F oven. Leave it alone for about an hour. When you stick a fork in it and the fork sinks in easily, it’s done.
Take the pieces out of the oven and scrape the pumpkin out of the skin with the spoon, just as you would for an acorn or butternut squash if you were going to serve it for dinner. Pumpkin really is just another squash after all.
At this point you have two choices. You can either put the flesh into a food processor or you can use a food mill to grind it up. Either way works well. I use a food processor. You need to pulse the processor for the first little bit while the liquid from the pumpkin comes out. Otherwise, you wind up with a pasty puree on the bottom and the top not being mixed in at all.
Viola! You now have pumpkin puree! Oh, the options are infinite at this point. Wait! Before you plan what’s going to happen with the puree, be sure to deal with the seeds.
Baking Pumpkin Seeds
Pick them out of the pumpkin guts and rinse them off. Then place the seeds in a glass bowl of salty water overnight. In the morning, spread them in a single layer on an oiled, foil-lined cookie sheet and pop them in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes.
Open the oven, pull out the cookie sheet, and stir the seeds up. Return them to the oven, and bake them for another 10 minutes or so. Now you’ve got a healthy snack for everyone in the house, if freshly roasted seeds last until everyone comes home.
Back to the Puree, and Eventually, the Pie…
Now it’s time to deal with the pumpkin puree, transforming it into things delicious and tantalizing…
(Editor’s Note: Pumpkin puree freezes very well! Just fill freezer bags or containers with pureed pumpkin, label and freeze. Canning pumpkin puree is NOT recommended because of the varying acid contents from pumpkin to pumpkin. Don’t chance it – just freeze it.)
Oh, I think I’ll make a pumpkin pie. I believe it ranks ahead of pecan pie in my house, but I’m not sure. Every time I ask which is tops, I am requested to make both so that there can be a comparison and, somehow, no one ever remembers the voting results from one time to the next. Hmmmm, a conspiracy perhaps? Guess I’ll have to make a pecan pie too!
Editor’s Note: Amy Hornburg Heilveil is a thrifty, creative mom who lives in Oneonta, New York. As the creative force behind Skilled Quill, she calligraphs custom documents like birth and wedding certificates and the like. She’s always scratch baking and cooking with her husband and young daughter.