Thursday, August 28, 2008

Preparing Pumpkin Puree

Yesterday I turned these four pie pumpkins and one acorn squash into puree for using in pies and breads and rolls as such come this fall. Lesson number one is to make sure that your pumpkins are ripe. After I cut into these, I realized they weren't nearly ready yet, even though they've been orange for a couple of weeks. I was a little disappointed, but figured what was done was done and I processed them anyway. So, make sure they're completely ready before hacking into them.
Next, wipe any dirt off them, and cut them in half. With the method I use for cooking them, it's best to try to get two even halves, so they don't dry out when cooking. Scrape out the guts and seeds. Save the seeds for roasting! (that'll be another post)

After the insides are clean, place the halves cut side down on foil lined baking sheets. This is why a complete half is better than an odd shap, as you can see with my squash, because it can get dry if the cut sides don't all touch the pan.

Yeah, that's a rogue acorn squash in there too. You can use most winter squashes in the same way, for pies or any recipe calling for canned pumpkin.

Roast these at 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half. They are ready when you can squeeze them slightly and they give, or when a fork is easily inserted into the flesh.

Scrape the flesh from the skins into a large bowl. You can see that some of my pumpkin is still slightly green. Don't be like me. Make sure the pumpkins are ripe.

The next step is to puree the flesh. You can use a potato masher, if you don't mind it not being as quite as smooth as the canned stuff. I used our immersion blender. That did a great job and got it all really smooth in just a few minutes. If you have a food mill or victorio strainer with a pumpkin screen, you could use either of those as well.

Make sure to leave a very generous headspace, especially when using canning jars. This full jar ended up breaking because of the expansion. I should have filled it much less.

I packed my puree into jars for freezing. Canning jars make good reusable freezer containers and we were given tons of quart jars by a friend. When you pack the puree into containers, it's best to think of what the use will be. I froze mine in two cup increments. The full quart jar has four cups of puree, which will be enough to make two pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. The other jar has two cups, which is just right for a double batch of pumpkin pancakes or bread. A regular can of pumpkin is about two cups, so that's usually standard in a lot of recipes. If it seems more versatile to freeze in one cup increments, by all means do so. But you'll want to think ahead, and not just freeze it all in one container, or you'll have to thaw and use it all at once.

Do not can pumpkin puree products.

It is not safe, because the puree is too thick for the heat to penetrate correctly, even in a pressure canner.

In case you're curious, the unripe pumpkin did turn out okay, just with not quite as strong a good pumpkin taste. But I've learned, and the ones on the vine now are staying there for a good long while!

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Melonie said...

Just popping by to say hi - I've been stopping by when I can but not taking the time to comment. Been insane around here as you've probably figured out from the silence on my blogs. LOL However, I do think of ya whenever I use my wonderful dish rags and scrubbies!!!

I hope you're both feeling back up to par soon. As for the weeds, just think of it this way: weeds are just plants that are growing where we don't want them to. There may actually be medicinal or culinary uses for your "weeds". Young dandelions make great salad greens, for instance. So just count yourself as a multi-talented gardener instead. ;-P

Bethany said...

Hi Melonie! I was just wondering the other day how you are doing. I hope all is well, even though it sounds like you're very busy!

As for the weeds, I'd love pretend they're meant to be there, but I can't help feeling angry at this terrible kind of grass we have that runs along the ground and puts roots where ever it touches. Ugh! :D

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