For me, the holidays start now, because Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I love dressing up the children and painting their faces, but I live for pumpkin season! I am a strong believer that everything tastes better with a little pumpkin… okay, well, maybe not everything, but most things.
To kick off the holiday, I’m going to spend the week sharing with you a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes. But, first, you’ll need the puree!
One thing I can promise you is that making your own puree will truly make a difference in your recipes and it’s shockingly easy. First, you’ll need a pumpkin. Most recipes call for a pie or sugar pumpkin. This is a name for the darker, smaller size pumpkins that you can often pick up in the grocery store with the other gourds or at a pumpkin patch. Though they aren’t as pretty, they are much more flavorful.
However, you can use your Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkins to make your own puree as well. I do recommend, however, that if you pick this option, you paint your pumpkins instead of slicing into them, because once cut they will begin to lose flavor and nutrients as they sit. If you decide use your Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin, make sure to increase the spices called for in your recipe to avoid a bland taste.
The first step to make your pumpkin puree is to clean out the pumpkin, so cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy guts. Keep the pumpkin seeds to make a delicious snack! Once cleaned, you have some options on how to precede – baking, microwaving, or boiling.
This is my preferred method, because I believe it enhances the flavors. First, preheat your oven to 350. Cover a baking sheet in foil. Lightly butter the edges of your pumpkin where your cuts were made and place it cut-side down on the foiled baking sheet. Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour until the inside is soft.
If you have a smaller pie or sugar pumpkin, you can microwave it. Place the two halves in a bowl and cover with water. Place them in the microwave and cook on high for approximately 30-4o minutes until the inside is soft. Check every 5-10 minutes and stir.
Boiling takes a bit more work, because before you start, you must peel and dice your pumpkin. Place the chunks into a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook for approximately 20-30 minutes until tender.
After you bake or microwave your pumpkin, you must remove the skin. Luckily, if done properly, the skins simply fall or peel off easily. Afterwards dice your pumpkin into chunks. If you boil it, your pumpkin is already in chunks, so you did the hard work beforehand. Now, drop the chunks into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
When you’re done, you can freeze it for later! Keep what you need for your recipes in the refrigerator, then take the remaining puree and place it in freezer bags. I recommend freezing 1 cup per bag, since most recipes call for about 1-2 cups of puree. If your puree is not thick enough, you can place it on the stove top and cook it until it reaches the consistency you desire.
Ready to try your puree? Check out this recipe I posted a while back – Apple, Pumpkin, & Oatmeal Baby Food
. It is a baby food, but I’ll tell you a secret. I feed it to my children for breakfast and they love it! They don’t even know or realize it’s baby food. I just tell them it’s Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal.