I'll be the first to admit that pumpkins freaked me out. Not in a grab-your-foot-from-under-the-bed kind of way, but more like a what-do-I-do-with-this kind of thing. They were just so intimidating. Like, who knows what to do with a pumpkin? My experience with pumpkins literally went as far as carving out jack-o-lanterns. And, I guess, it just never really occurred to me to do anything beyond that. I mean, canned pumpkin exists for a reason, right?
The thing is that my daughter, Lola, likes to try new things. She likes to get hands-on and create foods from scratch. My job is to encourage that can-do attitude - even if that means putting the canned pumpkin back on the shelf and adding a few scary baking pumpkins to my cart. We've made spaghetti squash before, how hard could this be?
There's something about a huge knife and a round pumpkin that just doesn't translate as safe, so other than cutting the pumpkins in half, Lola did the dirty work. Luckily, at the end of it all, we walked away intact and eagerly ready to use the fruits of our minimal labor. That's what we call a pun, folks!
After I carefully cut the pumpkins in half, Lola used an ice cream scoop to clean out the centers. Consider setting the seeds aside to make baked seeds, or just toss 'em. Your call, but our family will eat roasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled with sea salt for days. If you don't get every shred of the center cleared out, don't worry about it! The word "puree" hints at the fact that no one will know. Life is hard enough without concerning yourself with fibrous strands.
Pop your pumpkin halves in the oven and bake until you can pierce through the skin and pulp easily with a fork. You'll notice the skin will begin to look like a bad sunburn. Seriously. Look for tell-tale blistering that indicates the pumpkins are done. We let our pumpkins cool down before handling, because common sense is a good thing. They were still plenty warm when peeled the skin away, and Lola broke out the ice cream scoop for any stubborn sections. All that was left to do was put everything into the food processor.
On to the how-to!
Straight Up Pumpkin Puree
Start by preheating the oven to 350°
What you need:
2 baking pumpkins (smaller and rounder than carving pumpkins)
Break off the stem, or find pumpkins without stems. Hey, no one will fault you for saving yourself a step
Carefully cut the pumpkins in half
Scoop out the seeds and fibrous strands and place the empty halves on a backing sheet
Bake for 1 hour
Check your halves and continue baking until skin begins to wrinkle and/or blister. (There's really no nicer way to say it.)
Once you can pierce your pumpkin easily with a fork, set pumpkin halves out to cool.
Peel skin or just scoop out the good stuff
Put the insides into a blender or food processor and go to town until you get a smooth puree.
Note: If your puree needs some help, add a couple tablespoons of water at a time, and blend. Repeat until your puree reaches the desired consistency.
The possibilities are endless from here! Use your puree for cookies, bread, muffins, sauces, cocktails, baby food, and even stuffing ravioli. Of course, Lola and I have some ideas in mind, so stay tuned!