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  • Writer's pictureRobin Ankerich

Easy Organic Pumpkin Puree without the Plastic Lined Can

Now that Fall is here, have you seen small pumpkins in your local grocery store? Does it intimidate you to think about cooking or baking with fresh pumpkin? Let me assure you that it is easier than you think. Fresh pumpkin can be used for anything from baking to savory dishes, but my number one go-to is pumpkin puree for baking. I know, you’re thinking why not just buy the canned stuff? First off, those cans are lined with plastic, so if that is something you are trying to cut down on, go for fresh pumpkin. Second, is that it is often cheaper to purchase organic fresh pumpkin than purchasing organic canned pumpkin. The third reason is freshness, because the canned pumpkin on the shelf right now may have come from last season’s pumpkin or halfway around the world. And in a similar vain to freshness is flavor – by roasting the pumpkins yourself you end up with a richer flavor than the canned variety which was most likely steamed rather than roasted. And not to mention the free snack included with having the seeds!

How to make roasting a pumpkin fit into a busy schedule without extra work?

My trick during the Fall for always having fresh pumpkin puree when I need it involved always having at least 2 pumpkins on hand. After baking a casserole or sheet pan bake for dinner, I quickly cut 2 pumpkins in half and throw it in the still hot oven. No planning ahead required. By roasting two at once, you cut down on later work and have backup. By using your still hot oven and my hands off approach, you roast pumpkins while cleaning up dinner and unwinding from your busy day.

What pumpkin should you use?

The traditional go to pumpkin for baking/puree is the Sugar Pumpkin (also known as Pie Pumpkins) which is a small round orangy-yellow pumpkin sold in most produce departments at the grocery store throughout the Fall. Sugar Pumpkins are bred to have a sweet flesh that purees smooth. Yes, you can bake and puree those large carving pumpkins, but they are bred to be large, hollow, and crisp for carving rather than for flavor and texture. Other varieties that work well for baking are wide and varied, but most grocery stores only carry one or two (though in recent years more varieties have become available). If you are lucky enough to locate Kabocha (red or blue), Cinderella, or blue hubbard they also make wonderful baked goods. Other winter squash can be roasted and pureed as well including delicata, acorn, butternut, and turban squash.

Do you have to remove the seeds before roasting?

NO! For years, I removed the seeds and stringy interior before roasting, but you don’t have to. It is actually easier to scoop out this part after baking rather than before. Now, if you want to turn the seeds into a snack, it is slightly easier to separate the seeds from their connective tissue raw rather than after roasting, but if you are in a hurry – just pop the entire thing in the oven.

How to separate the seeds and stringy interior flesh from the rest of the pumpkin?

A large metal spoon is going to be your best friend. Whether you do this before or after roasting, simply scoop between the solid and stringing flesh.

How to separate the seeds from the stringy flesh?

Separating the seeds from their slimy stringy connective flesh used to take forever, but I have learned two different tricks that can help. Both tricks can be used for raw or baked pumpkin/seeds. The first is to place them seeds in a bowl of water and massage the flesh away; the seeds with mostly float and can be skimmed off. The second is to place them inside a kitchen towel and massage the flesh off. The flesh will stick to the towel and the seeds can be poured into a bowl. The latter is my preferred method.

What to do with the extra puree?

Pumpkin puree can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to a year. If freezing in mason jars, fill to the max line on the jar to ensure that it won’t crack; chill in the fridge before moving to the freezer. My personal favorite way to store extra puree is to freeze it in an ice cube tray. Then you can pull out exactly how much is needed for a recipe.


How to Turn a Fresh Pumpkin (or Squash) into Puree?

  1. If you do not already have the oven heated, heat it to 400F.

  2. Cut the pumpkin carefully in half with a large chef’s knife from north to south pole. Start with one side and then the other, before meeting in the middle of the bottom. If the stem does not break off in the separating process, cut around it to remove it.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the pumpkin halves cut side down.

  4. Roast for 1 hour.

  5. Remove from oven and flip over to cool. This will allow the extra stem to escape preventing watery puree.

  6. Use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds into a small bowl. Then scoop out the flesh from the skins. (At this point you can finish out the process or refrigerate overnight to complete later.) See note below about roasting seeds.

  7. Place the flesh in a food processor or blender and puree. You may need to do this in batches and scrap down the sides to insure a smooth even puree.

Enjoy in baked goods, pasta sauce, soup, and more.


Roasting Pumpkin or Squash Seeds

  1. Once the seeds and stringy flesh have been separated from the rest of the squash, either place them in a bowl of water or kitchen towel to remove the seeds from their connective flesh. Rinse and pat dry.

  2. In a small bowl, drizzle with a little oil of choice. Then add any seasonings desired. This can be as simple as a little salt or more adventurous like smoked paprika, season salt or cinnamon sugar. Toss to coat.

  3. Spread out on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 375F.

  4. Check every 5 minutes. Stir to prevent burning on one side and help with even roasting. Depending on your oven, the freshness of the seeds, and the type of squash, this process can take anywhere from 10-25 minutes.

  5. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or so.

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