Wednesday, October 14, 2009

First, You Select A Pumpkin

Even though these instructions are on the long side, making pumpkin puree is quite simple. First you select a pumpkin! Certain pumpkins are grown specifically for eating, these are commonly called pie or sugar pumpkins. One variety in this category is the Connecticut Field Pumpkin. (Almost any pumpkin can be cooked and eaten, but the varieties grown for carving are not as sweet and the flesh tends to be stringy.) Select a pumpkin that feels heavier than you think it might for its size, with a three or four inch stem. The pumpkin shown in the picture weighed about 11 pounds and was 33 inches in diameter and 16 inches from stem to bottom. When cooked and processed, the pumpkin produced 5 cups of puree, enough to make 2 pumpkin pies.

Pumpkin Puree

Preheat the oven to 350. Wash and dry the pumpkin. Select a large, very sharp knife. Set the pumpkin on a cutting board. Knock off the stem. Cut the pumpkin in half. When the pumpkin is completely cut through, separate the halves and lay them on their backs. Using a spoon scoop out the pulp and seeds. (To roast the seeds see my earlier post, “Sign of the Season.”)

Select one or two pans large enough to hold the pumpkin halves. Place the pumpkins halves in the pan(s) cut side down. Fill the pans about half way with water. Add 1 tsp. of kosher salt to each pan. Lift the pumpkins halves slightly—this allows the water to flow underneath the halves. Place the pans in the preheated oven.

Bake the pumpkin halves until the flesh is completely cooked, about 45 minutes. The skin will not be soft, but should give when touched, indicating that the flesh underneath is thoroughly cooked. Remove the pan(s) from the oven. When the halves have cooled sufficiently to handle, use two large long handled spatulas and remove them to a cutting board. Flip the halves onto their backs and let them rest while you prepare the colander. (The water can be saved and used in soup.)

Line a large colander with a paper towel, then with a triple layer of cheese cloth large enough to hang over the sides of the colander—about 6 inches all the way around. Set the colander over a bowl. Using a large metal kitchen spoon, scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and into the colander. As the pulp cools, it will shed water into the bowl. Allow the pulp to drain for two hours.

When the pulp is cold and has drained for two hours, gather up the overhanging cheesecloth in one hand. Twist the gathered material and start squeezing. The goal is to squeeze as much moisture as possible from the pulp. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of juice that streams from the pulp. Squeeze the pulp until the volume is reduced by half. The pulp should be shiny and thick. When this has been accomplished, the pulp is ready to be pureed. The pumpkin juice has a lovely sweet flavor and can be reserved for use in soup.

The pulp is now ready to be pureed. Place the pulp in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the pulp until is smooth and thick—about 10 pulses. The pulp can be used immediately, frozen for future use, or stored in an air tight container for use in a day or two.


  1. I've been thinking about pumpkin spice cake. Time to look for a nice pumpkin at the farmer's market, I think.

  2. Let me know how it goes. So very worth the small amount of effort.