Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Puree & Pepitas

Of all the colorful Fall squash that I see at my local farm stand, pumpkin is still my top favorite. I regretfully admit to one and all that I cannot bond with the flavor of butternut squash. I'm sorry. Oh, I've tried! I perfected the art of how to even slice that odd shaped squash. I've roasted it with honey--or olive oil and lots of garlic. In one last attempt, I used a lot of brown sugar to disguise what I perceive to be a bland flavor. I've even made lasagna with it... but, still, there is something about the flavor of butternut squash that doesn't rock my world. Am I the only one who feels this way? Anyone?

Now, pumpkin is another happy ending story!  It's so pretty! I love savory pumpkin soups, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cakes. I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy pumpkin.  I never tire of it. I keep canned pumpkin puree in my pantry, year-round. My husband really likes the pumpkin pasta that I make, as do I.

This year, I regretted not growing our own pumpkins-- especially when I saw that sugar pumpkins are a little on the pricey side. Still, I bought three of them because I wanted to teach myself how to make my own pumpkin puree. From what I've read, sugar pumpkins are preferred over traditional Jack O'Lantern pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins are smaller in size, and is said to have more flavor.   I was torn between steaming the pumpkin versus roasting it. In the end, I decided to try roasting. Here's how I did it:

I started with lopping off the top of each pumpkin, which was easier said that done! You need a really strong and sturdy knife.

Cut them in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. I found that an ice cream scoop worked really well-- it takes a bit of elbow grease!

Save the seeds-- these are delicious roasted.

On a baking sheet, line them up. I set them skin side up. Here's where I was tempted to use olive oil, salt & pepper. I resisted, because I wanted these to be plain. My plans are to use the puree for both savory and sweet dishes.  Now, I've read that people sometimes put water in the pan and cover this with foil. However, I was going to follow The Pioneer Woman's tutorial on how to make this. I wanted to use my own photographs, because I respect people's copyrights. Amen. Stick with me, please. Thank you.

I roasted these at 350F for about 30 minutes, until they were fork tender. Times will vary, depending on your oven and the size of the pumpkins.  I let them cool just long enough so that I could hold a piece...

...and the skins pulled off relatively easy, while still warm. Sometimes I used a paring knife to help.

You definitely need a food processor for this part. I cannot imagine trying to mash puree by hand!  I think a blender would be cumbersome. But, that's me. The cooked pumpkin was pretty dry, I thought. Maybe steaming helps, and I'll try that next time around to compare. No worries, though. I read that you can add a little water as you go...

The trick is to PULSE the pumpkin. Trust me. I added a little bit of water, to help the processor puree the cooked pumpkin. There! Just right.  I took a taste of the puree-- and I made a face. It was bitter! Yikes!

So, I opened a can of commercially prepared pumpkin puree and tasted that. Bitter!  I guess I've never tasted pumpkin, unless it's been seasoned or sweetened. What a difference! The canned puree has a darker orange color, too. I'm not sure why-- maybe it's heated as part of the canning process? It's time to prepare my puree to be kept in the freezer, since I read that pumpkin freezes really well.

I love this clever measuring cup. Please tell me that you have one. It's how I measure solids like peanut butter, shortening etc. and I've had it for years.  The true purpose of pureeing my own pumpkin is that I wanted to freeze one cup increments.  Sometimes I amaze myself! I figured out that rather than folding the sides of a ziploc bag over and spooning the puree, I found that I could insert the filled measuring cup and inject it right into the ziploc bag-- which I had opened into a measuring cup so it would hold it's self up. No fuss! No mess! Clever, huh?

Close the bag, leaving a small opening to flatten out and squeeze out the air. Easy!

There ya go! I got five cups of puree from three sugar pumpkins. These store in the freezer, without taking up a lot of space.

I didn't forget about the pumpkin seeds!  I found that dumping the guts and seeds into a colander making separating the pulp from the seeds really simple. See? You won't get 100% of the pulp out, but that's okay.

Spread the seeds out on a baking sheet. But don't -- I repeat-- DON'T roast them yet! You want to let these dry for several hours (I dried them overnight). Otherwise, the seeds will steam and they won't roast to be nice and crispy. Don't leave these on a paper towel, either! If you do, you'll give up trying to peel them off, because the seeds will glue on. I am speaking from experience, because I did this once... a long time ago.

The seeds will still feel slimy. That's okay. You just want the water to have evaporated.  Add some olive oil and table salt (kosher is too big, in this instance) and blend this with your hands. You can quit, here, but I decided to add a scant teaspoon of cumin...

 ...I also sprinkled the seeds with seasoned salt.  I baked them at 250F for almost an hour. You just have to check on them at about 45 minutes and add more time-- depending on how golden and toasty you like them.

These smelled wonderful!

Yep, these are toasty and flavorful.

Since I'm a grownup, I think they go great with a cold glass of beer. Happy Hour! What's left should be stored in an airtight container.

Making your own pumpkin puree takes a bit of time, I admit. Opening up a can of pumpkin puree is a lot easier and I think canned pumpkin is pretty reasonably priced.  Still, I like the idea of having premeasured bags of pumpkin puree.  Next year, though, I plan to grown my own sugar pumpkins. I just have to butter up my husband to set up the watering system for my planned pumpkin patch-- and, I need to be vigilant that the critters who live outside don't get to them first. How many cans of tuna will it take to bribe my kitty into chasing them away?

I've been busy making pumpkin recipes. I'll be posting them throughout the week. Tonight, I'm making pumpkin black bean soup. I still have that stupid cold, though I'm getting better.  Thanks for you well wishes.

Printable recipe cards are at the end of this post.

Enjoying the Fall Colors and Flavors,

Pepitas on Foodista

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Monica H said...

This is total deja vu! I spent the day yesterday roasting and pureeing pumpkins! I still need to package them up for the freezer though.

Yeah pumpkin is not the greatest flavor unseasoned. I wanted to grow my own pumpkins too and I saved several seeds (untoasted :-)
but I'm not sure how to do it? What type of soil, how deep, what much to water, in moist soil, shade or full sun. I am so not a gargener can you tell?! If you have any tips for me I'd be forever grateful!

I almost posted my pumpkin recipe last night but I decided to put up Sam's birthday cake instead. I will post my puree in a couple days!

Donna-FFW said...

Excellent tutorials.

I have yet to try roasting pumpkin seeds, you bet I will now. Sounds perfect with beer!!

George Gaston said...

Debby, great post! Looks like you will be fixing some great dishes in the months ahead with your delicious pumpkin puree ~ lucky you.

The roasted pumpkin seeds are such a great snack and the seasoning you used must make them sensational. Thanks for all the tips...

TKW said...

OOOH, that kitty has spooky eyes! He looks like a mischievous boy!

I love toasted pumpkin seeds. I like the idea of adding cumin.

Marguerite said...

I love all things pumpkin, including the seeds. Thanks for the great ideas!

Mary said...

Your post couldn't be more seasonal or timely. Great photos as always.

Cheryl said...

Wow that is quite a process, not sure I have the patience, although the results are worth it I am sure! Goooo girl!

bella said...

Debby, you and Monica are just TOO MUCH!!! Pureeing your own pumpkin...you deserve awards and your own TV show, girl! Just love it! Anyhow, Debby, do you have a button yet so that I can (and many others, I'm sure) can post it on my blog? Emily makes them for her clients. Just wondering! Have a great day! Roz

Ingrid said...

Thanks for sharing! I totally needed those pumpkin seed roasting tips last year. I guess I should try again now that I know. :)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Pumpkin seeds are da Bomb!

I don't know too many people who are ambitious enough to prepare their own pumpkin. Kudos to you.

I believe the reason why the canned pumpkin doesn't taste like the real thing is because canned pumpkin isn't actually pumpkin. It's another type of squash. My brother told me that years ago and I wasn't sure if he was pulling my leg or not, but last year a few people around the blogsphere were talking about it.

Carole said...

I'm with you, Debby. I have never cared for butternut squash.

Hope you feel better soon!

Danielle said...

oh that darned cold! I'm still coughing off and on, more than a month later. hope you get better quicker than I have.

I didn't know until about a year ago that pumpkin puree isn't made from just any ole pumpkin! and ya...I looove me some pumpkin seeds!!

Frieda Loves Bread said...

Hooray! I wanted to grow them this year as well, but missed the planting date. If you have access to a pressure cooker, it is a BREEZE to cook.

I think the darker color of the canned pumpkin is that it used a variety of pumpkins.

Great post!