Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Pumpkin Puree: Instead of Libby's

There's something about pumpkins. When the bright orange globes start sprouting on doorsteps around town, you know that fall is in full swing, with Halloween and Thanksgiving sure to arrive before you can say, "gobble, gobble!"

When my son was small, the season usually meant a trip to a pumpkin patch to pick out perfect candidates to carve into jack-o-lanterns with face-splitting grins. Sometimes a slight detour took us to a haunted house--and once to a cornstalk maze where a scary guy with a chainsaw tore after us (supposedly there was no chain in the saw so it couldn't actually do any real damage--or so my husband assured me while laughing hysterically).

No chainsaws in this North Carolina corn maze
 Photo credit:
One thing I never did with those pumpkins was to actually cook them. I recall trying it once and making a pumpkin pie that was stringy--something a pumpkin pie should never be. It was a lot easier to purchase a can of Libby's and make the recipe on the back.

Lately, I've been in DIY mode--probably something to do with starting this blog. I figure I can experiment with anything edible, and, if it doesn't turn out, I'll just write about it; my readers will presumably be entertained and learn what not to do--for instance, how not to make a stringy pumpkin pie (yeah, just open a can!).

Inveterate googler that I am, I searched online for how to make pumpkin puree. I found pretty acceptable directions at a site called It suggests a few different ways of cooking a pumpkin--baking, microwaving and steaming among them. Knowing how long it takes to bake a dense winter squash in the oven, I opted for steam. I used one of the two pie pumpkins (sometimes called sugar pumpkins or sugar pie pumpkins) I'd purchased at Trader Joe's. Apparently, the large jack-o-lantern types are more likely to turn out stringy, though all are edible. This one measured only about 6 inches across.

I chopped it in half with a sharp knife. PickYourOwn recommended using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, but I used one with a straight-edge, stabbing the point into the orange flesh, then cutting around the sphere until it fell away in two pieces. I scooped out the interior with a heavy-duty ice cream scoop, set the seeds aside to bake later, scraped away the pesky little strings that adhered to the pumpkin's interior walls and cut off the stubby green stem.

Next, I chopped the pumpkin into pieces small enough to fit into my 3.5-quart steamer, put water in the pot up to just below the bottom of the steamer basket, then popped the pumpkin pieces inside, put the lid on and turned on the burner.

After first allowing the water to come to a boil, I turned down the heat and cooked it for about 25 to 30 minutes, poking  a fork into the pumpkin meat occasionally to see if it was soft. When it was, I took off the lid to let the pumpkin cool for a bit. Then came the fun part: scooping out the goop with a spoon. It came away from the rind pretty easily and wasn't at all stringy. Samples of the orange goo were sweeter than I expected and definitely more flavorful than the canned variety. I fantasized about mashing it with a little butter, brown sugar and nutmeg and eating it for dessert. But I'll save that for a future blog.

To make sure there were no lumps or strings, I used my Cuisinart hand blender to puree the mixture (a food processor might work even better). That was a little tricky. The blender works great for liquefying soups, but this mix was a bit thick, so I had to add some of the leftover pumpkin water, which helped. In a few minutes, the mix turned into a gorgeous orange mush. My pumpkin yielded about 2 1/2 cups. Yours might make more, depending on its size, but I was happy with the result. The downside was the entire process took almost 2 hours.  On balance, I might just open a can next time!

Don't forget to check out my recipe for a lighter (but still delicious) Pumpkin Pecan Bread!

1 comment:

  1. I made this again today. Instead of a hand blender, I used a potato masher. I thought it worked well, although the pumpkin puree wasn't quite as smooth. I also realized after cutting open a rather dry and pale looking pumpkin that quality is really important. The pumpkin should be heavy for its size, have a good exterior color, firm rind and not rattle when you shake it. When you cut into it, the flesh should be firm, with a medium to bright orange hue.