Have you ever looked at that can of pumpkin you get out every year for the holidays and think “Hmm, I wonder if I could actually use a real pumpkin instead of this canned version?”. This was me. I love pumpkin everything. Everything. But I hate having to buy canned pumpkin because, well, it’s not truly homemade then, is it? And then you hear the rumors… “Real pumpkin is just stringy”. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s a lie, and that I used real pumpkin, pureed, to make one bomb pumpkin pie… a pumpkin pie that all of my family couldn’t believe was made from a real pumpkin because it was that good. It’s possible and I think that flavor is wonderful!
This is all what spurred me to plant 6 pumpkin plants this year… I know, I’m a little extra. And now my house is absolutely full of pumpkins. It’s fine. But here’s the thing, for the price of one pack of seeds (~$3.00), I’ll have plenty of pumpkins this year… and next year… and probably the year after that. It really only takes 2-4 plants to have plenty of pumpkins. I mean, or you could pay at least $1.00 per can from the store. Up to you! But I think you know which route I’m choosing from now on!
But it’s not exactly a piece of cake… nothing homemade ever is. Out of all of the homemade things you can make though, this has to be one of the easiest. You still might be asking, “why would I want to take the extra time when I can simply buy the can from the store?”. Because, again, not only will it save you a bit of cash, but also because of the flavor and knowing exactly what is in your food (yup, no preservatives in my pumpkin please)!
Now, the process isn’t exactly brain science… its actually very straight forward. You’ll need a bit of time to let the pumpkin bake, but other than that it’s a fairly hands off process… definitely easier than canning tomatoes!
Does pumpkin type matter?
To begin, its best to start with the right type of pumpkin. While you theoretically could use any kind of pumpkin, there are certain varieties that will have a better taste and consistency for baking. One such variety is the New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin. These pumpkins are smaller than a “jack-o-lantern” variety which actually tends to work well. One of these pumpkins on average will have the perfect amount of puree for a pie. There are other varieties that work well for baking, however this is the one I am most familiar with.
Baking & preserving the pumpkin…
So how do you preserve it? Well, one could can their pumpkin. Many do. However, you cannot can pureed pumpkin, only cubes. On top of that, if you plan to can pumpkin cubes, you must pressure can them. Now if this doesn’t bother you and you’re fine with pureeing the pumpkin later, I urge you to consider this option. I, however, like to have my pumpkin puree pre-measured out which works extremely well if you puree it right away and freeze it in the increments you want. Then you also will have less waste.
To bake the pumpkin, some people will cut the pumpkin into halves and scoop out the seeds first. I’ve done this before, but now feel as though its wasted time… especially since discovering that you can bake the whole pumpkin. That’s right, the whole pumpkin. I simply place the pumpkins on a bar/sheet pan and in the oven they go. So easy! When the pumpkins come out, they cut easily and the seeds scoop right out with no hassle.
When pureeing the pumpkin, you will need some kind of blender or food processor. I prefer to use my food processor. The most important part of this process is getting the pumpkin smooth so that there aren’t any lumps or strings and to be frank, a blender or food processor is the only way to do that. If you don’t mind some lumps, then feel free to use other methods, however be prepared for a less than smooth pie!
Most of the time, when I freeze my pumpkin puree, I choose to do so in 2 cup increments in freezer quart bags. Why? Well, a 15 oz can of pumpkin is approximately 2 cups of puree. So, by freezing in 2 cup increments, one bag of pumpkin puree is essentially one can of pumpkin. So when you go to make a pie, or basically any other recipe that calls for pumpkin, you can directly use the whole bag of pumpkin and, again, spare wasting any.
This process goes quite quickly. So, most of the time when I go to bake one pumpkin up, I’ll do several at once just to save time later! Have you ever heard of “batching” things? It’s my favorite. Less dishes and time overall!
I hope this encourages you to plant some pie pumpkin plants next year in your garden for a bountiful pumpkin harvest next fall or simply pick up a pie pumpkin or 5 from the store while they’re in season. Trust me, my friend… it will lead to scrumptious pumpkin pies and maybe you sneaking pumpkin into some other desserts or dishes!
- Any type of pie pumpkin, such as a New England Sugar Pie pumpkin.
- Clean your pumpkin by rinsing it with warm water making sure to remove all debry.Place your pumpkin(s) on a bar or sheet pan.
- Place in an oven at 350˚F for approximately an hour and a half or until you can poke through the rind easily with a fork and the flesh is soft.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool until you can touch it comfortably, approximately 15 minutes.
- Take a knife and cut around the stem and remove from the pumpkin.
- Cut the pumpkin into quarters and open the pumpkin up. There likely will be some steam released. If needed, allow the pumpkin to cool yet again for another 5-10 minutes.
- Using a spoon, remove the seeds and strings from the pumpkin. This should be accomplished easily by simply skimming the flesh gently.
- Remove the pumpkin flesh with the spoon and place in your blender or food processor.
- Once all of the pumpkin flesh is removed, blend/process until the flesh is smooth.
- Once the pumpkin puree is smooth, bag in two cup increments into freezer zip-lock baggies. Place in your freezer on a flat surface – this will allow for easier storage once frozen. If using fresh, add into whatever recipe you wish.