Friday, March 1, 2013

Pumpkin Puree: How to Make It, How to Use It

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Dear pompkin-lovers,

I really do love a good ol' pumpkin.  Last fall, I bought a trunk-load of pie pumpkins, and I've been gradually incorporating them into the kitchen.  Pumpkins can last for months in a cool, dry place (under our dining table), and I'm enjoying having fresh puree for now, but shortly I'll be roasting, pureeing and freezing them all in one big swoop to clear the space out.

Roasting Pumpkins
Use "Sugar Pumpkins" or "Pie Pumpkins" or "Sugar Pie Pumpkins" for this - they are small, usually about 2 - 4 lbs.  Do not attempt to use the large jack-o-lantern pumpkins for eating - they will be watery, stringy, tough, and nasty as they are bred for size, not food. They are definitely not edible! 

Preheat oven to 350. Wash pumpkin.

Halve pumpkins.  Remove seeds and set aside; scrape out the stringy pulp.  Cut pumpkin into wedges or halves and lay, flesh-side down, in a pan.

Roast for 45 minutes or until flesh is tender and soft when pricked with a fork.

Using a knife, your hands, or a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin; discard skin (makes great compost!).

Puree the pumpkin flesh in a blender until fine and smooth.  1 pound of uncut pumpkin makes approximately 1 cup of blended puree.  Freeze in tubs and transfer to vacuum-seal bags, or freeze in ziplock bags like Miz Carmen.

Optional: If you want a less wet puree, more appropriate for blending into cheeses or butters and possibly more cooperative in some baking applications, or spooning into yogurt, then line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a bowl.  Pour in the puree and let it strain in a bowl overnight.  Discard the liquid and use the remaining puree as desired.

Pumpkin Seeds
You can roast seeds, but I prefer dehydrating them.  You can do this if you have more seeds than you want to roast all at once, or you can do it if you prefer to keep them as a "living food" and add to trail mixes or granola bars.  

Clean the fibrous threads of pumpkin off the seeds; rinse if desired.  Pat dry and spread evenly on a dehydrator tray; dry at 135 for several hours or until they are crispy and dry.  Store in an airtight container; freeze if they will be left for several months or more.

Using Pumpkin Puree

Pie Town USAPerhaps the most obvious choice in our minds is a traditional American Pumpkin Pie!  Mix up your own pumpkin pie spice and blend it with the puree before freezing, if you are planning to make a lot of pies in the future.  If you're tired of Libby's recipe, try this allergen-free real-food Pumpkin Pie, based on the recipe from Nourishing Traditions. Note: Pie Town is a real place, and Mr H and I were there.  "There were three buildings," he later said, "and all of them said pie for sale!" They even have a Pie-O-Neer Cafe.  Truth is stranger than fiction!

Drink it Up: Stir puree into your hot drinks, or throw it in your smoothies.  (I'm in the testing phase for a pumpkin smoothie!  Cue pumpkins, bananas, creamy whole milk, pumpkin spice, honey, an egg white, vanilla ... is this breakfast, or is it dessert?!)

Layered: stack homemade yogurt, homemade granola, dried cranberries, and pumpkin puree!  Dig in for a hearty breakfast (or freeze for a dreamy snack).

Baked Delight: Add to brownies, pancakes, waffles or cakes with pumpkin puree; add it to banana bread, muffins, or other delights either in addition to or in place of butter or oil.

Stir it: stir pureed pumpkin in to wheat farina or Cream of Wheat, or oatmeal or groats.

A Dazzling List: Thousands of other bloggers have weighed in on this topic over time, and this blogger has collected 50 of the best ways to use puree (I can't vouch for all of them - many of them are not "real food" recipes, but they may spark your own ideas).

Blended: throw pumpkin puree in the Vitamix with cream cheese and a little cinnamon or honey.  Use it as a spread for toast and bagels!

Tired of Puree? If you don't want to puree your pumpkin, here's another fun recipe idea: Cut off the top, remove the seeds, and roast your dinner inside!

Soup on Tap: add the puree to a pot of soup to thicken and increase flavor.

Harvest Leather: Sweeten with sugar or maple syrup and pumpkin spice, and cook down until the volume reduces by about one third; spread on a dehydrator lined with parchment paper (NOT wax paper) or leather trays, and dehydrate for several hours or until the center is no longer tacky.  Cool before peeling from trays.

Canning Pumpkin? Are you low on freezer space?  It is possible to can pumpkin, but it's too dense to be pureed and canned: it has to be processed in cubes.  Follow the canning instructions here; when you want pumpkin puree, just strain out the water and puree the cubes.  The whole cubes (and their liquid) also make a great addition to soup!

Pumpkin Ice Cream: why say more?

Pompous as can be,

Mrs H
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