I can’t remember the last time I bought a can of food. When we went plastic-free in 2011, we ditched all canned food. Cans are lined with plastic that often contains BPA, which according to the Environmental Working Group, “is a synthetic estrogen that scientists have linked to breast cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, heart disease and other illnesses.” Some cans emblazoned with the claim “BPA-Free” across them contain BPS instead, which is no better.
Yes, preparing pumpkin puree from scratch requires more work than opening a can but fresh pumpkin puree tastes delicious, you get some yummy by-products out of your pumpkin and you don’t have to worry about exposing your family to nasty chemicals (assuming you choose an organic pumpkin…).
- 1 sugar pie pumpkin
Basically, you stab a pumpkin a few times, bake it for about 45 minutes and run the flesh through a food mill.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Stab the top of the pumpkin several times so it doesn’t explode in the oven. Place it on a dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until you can easily slide a knife into it. If you bake it too long, you’ll find hard spots. This has happened to me a couple of times. I thought the pumpkin just needed more time in the oven and left it in there, making matters worse. So keep an eye on it.
You’ll notice its glossy surface and darker color when it’s ready. It kind of looks like it oiled itself up and spent the afternoon at the beach.
2. Remove the top and scoop out the seeds. Set the seeds aside for roasting later.
3. Halve the pumpkin and scrape out the stringy bits. I ate some of these as I scraped away (I was hungry) and composted the rest.
4. You can either scoop out the flesh with a big spoon or cut the pumpkin up, peel off the skin and cube it. The skin comes off a baked pumpkin very easily. I opted for peeling and cubing. Set the skin aside for roasting.
5. Run the pumpkin through a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, you could try a potato masher, blender or food processor. Initially my food mill proved very tedious because I didn’t realize I had used the disk with the smallest holes. I switched to the disk with the larger holes (see below) and made quick work of the pumpkin.
6. Voila. Your puree is ready. My pumpkin rendered about 4 cups of puree, which I decided to pack into wide-mouth jars for the freezer. I left over an inch of head space at the top to prevent broken jars. Every time I post pics of jars in the freezer on social media, people ask me about breakage. I have had only one mishap when I put liquid in a narrow-neck bottle in the freezer. The liquid froze, expanded and cracked the top of the (very nice) bottle cleanly off. Oops. Now I used only wide-mouth jars in there.
In the pic above, you’ll also notice roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin skin. I had never roasted the skins before and they tasted surprisingly delicious, kind of like pumpkin chips! I would not eat the skins if you use a pesticide pumpkin (I refuse to call food conventional that has been sprayed with poisons).
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Spices if desired (I sprinkled these with a bit of cayenne)
Remove as many pumpkin chunks as you can from the seeds. Toss pumpkin seeds, olive oil, salt and spices if using. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or glass tray. Roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 or 30 minutes until golden and crunchy.
Roasted Pumpkin Skin
- Pumpkin skin in 2- to 3-inch size pieces
- Olive oil
Toss pumpkin skin, olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or glass tray. Roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes until somewhat shriveled and crispy. Keep and eye on these. They can burn easily in the last couple of minutes.