One unshakable truisms in the kitchen is “that fresh is always better than canned”. While those ubiquitous Libby’s can say “100% pumpkin” and are seductively easy to use, its slight off flavor has always made me want to roast my own pumpkin. In past years, I’ve read that I need to find “sugar pumpkins” (whatever those are), which are 8-to-10″ in diameter and have a darker orange exterior compared to jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. Hmm. Is that really all I’ve got to go on? And the difference is important: Sugar pumpkin have more flavorful and denser flesh. They are drier, and thus take less time to cook.
IMPORTANT HALLOWEEN TIP. How to prevent squirrels from eating your pumpkins.
After paying extra attention this year, I did finally notice that a few markets are properly labeling them as “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”. In my case, I found a 5-3/4 pound sugar pumpkin, which yielded 2 pounds of pumpkin puree. That’s enough to make two pies, and only required about 15 minutes of work (over the course of nearly 3 hours).
BTW, I am planning to use the same Pumpkin Pie recipe that I’ve used for the past 3 years. Based upon a simple tasting of the pumpkin puree, the flavors are much deeper and more flavorful. I’m sure that this will make for a 5-star pumpkin pie!
- The pumpkin puree should be used within 4 days or frozen in an air-tight container (with parchment paper pressed onto the surface of the pumpkin) for up to 2 months.
- I did try to roast the pumpkin seeds, but didn’t pay close enough attention as they baked in the same hot oven as the pumpkin. They overcooked, but fortunately didn’t burn, which could have ruined the pumpkin puree.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 2:00 PM. Done at: 4:45 PM.
The Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:
1 small sugar pumpkin
- Set a rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 375-degrees.
- Cut pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds and pulp. Line a rimmed-backing sheet with parchment paper, and set pumpkin halves with the cut-side downwards.
- Roast for 45 to 60 minutes until the flesh can be easily pierced with a skewer. Flip the pumpkin over and roast for 30 minutes more.
- Scoop flesh from skin into a food processor, process until smooth. Unless you have a full-sized food processor, you will need to process one half at a time (i.e. in two batches).
- Drain the puree in a fine-mesh strainer, set over a bowl for 1 hour. Mine lost about 6 ounces of water.
- To test consistency, pack some of your puree into a small drinking glass and unmold it onto a plate. It should slump gently toward base but otherwise hold its shape. Loosen as necessary with drained liquid, or return puree to strainer and continue to drain it if it is too loose.
- Measure out puree into two 16-oz containers before freezing. A typical Libby’s can weighs 15-ounces.
- When you use cook with it, you should use it exactly as your would canned pumpkin.