In Season: Pumpkins

Fall through early winter

A jack-o’-lantern does not a pumpkin puree make. I guess I should amend the previous statement to say: Pumpkin puree does always not come from a can. Now that it’s fall, you may be seeing pumpkins of all sorts at the market. Roasting and mashing a pumpkin makes a rich, delicious puree that can be used in many different ways. Go ahead—throw out your can openers this fall!

When you’re at the market, make sure to pick the correct kind of pumpkin. There may be options galore; it is important, however, not to pick the decorative sort of pumpkin. That means no jack-o’-lanterns! As festive as this type of squash is, it will make a horribly stringy, watery puree—not tasty. You want a sugar pumpkin.

This type of pumpkin usually runs between 2.5 to 5 pounds. They are smaller than the Halloween variety (except the mini-pumpkins, which are strictly decorative) and are packed with nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E.

Pumpkin puree is a great autumnal addition to many savory or sweet dishes. On the savory side, try it as an addition to a smooth and luxurious soup, spooned into risotto or added to a pasta sauce. And though you can never forget about pumpkin pie, try other pumpkin recipes like muffins, quick breads or pancakes for a festive treat.

Pumpkin Puree

1 3- to 5-pound sugar pumpkin (may also be called a pie pumpkin)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a sharp knife, cut off and discard the stem end of the pumpkin. Slice the pumpkin in half. Scrape the interior of seeds and pulp. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 to 70 minutes, depending on size. Pumpkin should be soft and easily poked with a fork. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Place the pulp in a food processer and process until smooth. This should take about one minute.

Pumpkin contains a lot of liquid. Place the pulp in a cheesecloth-lined colander, and then place the colander over a bowl. Refrigerate overnight. The pulp will have exuded up to a cup of liquid; discard this liquid. Sealed puree will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, or in a freezer bag in the freezer for a few months.

One 3-pound pumpkin makes approximately 1.5 cups of puree.

Have you ever cooked the wrong kind of pumpkin? Chime in below!

Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog Nosheteria.com.

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