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Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Puree

Well, we can all sigh a breath of relief.. the great canned pumpkin shortage is over. Oh... wait, but I never use the stuff. I never suffered one day by not being able to purchase canned pumpkin from the grocery store during the last year.

Why? Because I still have more pumpkin puree than I can use thanks to an over-abundant crop a few years back and the yearly jack-o-lantern. By the way, if you've never tried pumpkin pie made from pumpkin puree that hasn't been tormented in the pressure canner, you are missing out. To be honest, I simply can't eat pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin. If you think there isn't a difference, compare eating frozen green beans to canned green beans.

I rest my case.

Now, if you're starting to feel like your house looks like this pumpkin field, then you need to convert that crop into orange gold! It's easy, especially if you have a food processor.

First, Cut the pumpkin in half. Cut out the stem and blossom end and discard it. You can see my dog, Stella, here suddenly decided that what I was doing was way more interesting than trolling for dead bugs and crumbs.

Once you've split them apart, Use a large spoon to scrape the insides out. Now this is a jack-o-lantern pumpkin, and a very mature one at that. See how stringy it is? It still makes a fine pie, but if you want the creme-de-la-creme, then you need to buy (or grow) the small pie pumpkins. Also, you may want to save the seeds to make toasted pumpkin seeds!

Once the insides are scraped out, place them face down on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.

Tuck the edges of foil up around the pumpkin. It doesn't have to be a tight seal or anything, but you want to keep them from drying out too much while baking. Place the baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for one to two hours, depending on the size of your pumpkins.

Be sure your pumpkins are very tender before removing them from the oven. I use a cake tester to see how done they are. Obviously, the skin is always kind of tough, even when the inside is well done, but you can still gauge their doneness pretty well by poking them. If in doubt, let them cook a little longer. Overcooking is waaaaay better than under cooking them here. Let them cool completely at room temperature before moving on to the next step.

When they are cool, use a large spoon to scrape the now tender flesh out of the skin. You'll end up with a shell that can easily be discarded.

Look at that gorgeous color! Pumpkin out of a can never looked that good! See how fibrous it is at this point? If you only want to use this for pumpkin bread, you could simply stir it to break up the fibers a bit and call it good. If, however, there's a chance you want to make pumpkin pie or some such thing, then you need to puree it. And, I mean, puree it good. I hate pumpkin puree that's not smooth.

Here's where a food processor comes in handy. You can use a blender, but you have to use a lot more water and let it drain a lot longer. Working in batches, puree the pumpkin flesh with enough water to allow it to process very easily into a very smooth puree. Then pour the puree into a cheesecloth lined colander to drain. I use four layers of cheese cloth to be sure I don't lose any of that wonderful puree.

Let the puree sit and drain for a few hours. I find it helps to stir the puree from time to time. When it is dry enough to allow it to "stand-up" in pointy ridges, it's ready for the last step.

There are two main ways to freeze the puree. You can use freezer containers or zip top bags. I have used both. The zip top bags are nice because they thaw very quickly and stack fairly well in the freezer. The freezer containers stack even better and don't ooze at the seams when they thaw. Dang, but things just aren't made the way they used to be.

I usually freeze two cups together since that covers most of the recipes that I use. Oh, and, yes... that's a 2007 you see in the upper corner of that frozen puree. That's what so great about this stuff, especially if it's frozen in the baggies. Provided you are careful to get all the air out of the bag before you freeze them, these things will last for years without any freezer burn!

1 comment:

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