Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

It always amuses me when magazine articles and cooking shows declare that it is pumpkin season and photos display the bright orange squash or beautiful heirloom varieties posing among fallen leaves. But ironically, most recipes that call for pumpkin puree list puree from a can as an ingredient. While granted, it is a bit more convenient to just use something out of a can, the whole point of buying foods when they are in season is that one can find it fresh! Sadly, most people have forgotten that pumpkins are for more than just carving or decorating the front porch. Pumpkins can be cooked and eaten as you would any other winter squash, and they are a delicious source of vitamins A and C.

Pumpkins that are still in the market are going for a steal now that Halloween is over. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I planned to make some homemade puree for my pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pancakes. Today at Whole Foods I found organically grown sugar pumpkins for 99 cents a pound! I bought two, and brought them home, cut them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds and roasted them for an hour. The resulting puree is sweet, light orange and really something that cannot be duplicated by the stuff that comes out of a can (are canned green beans really as good as the fresh ones?). Use canned pumpkin when pumpkins are out of season, and you are craving some pumpkin bread. Or better yet, roast more than one pumpkin and freeze the left over puree for another day.

The first time I roasted pumpkins for puree, it came out too watery. Letting the puree drain in a cheesecloth-lined colander eliminates this problem.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

1 2-4 pound sugar pumpkin
2 T water

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut pumpkin in half through the stem end. Scoop out the pulp and seeds (reserve seeds for roasting). Place pumpkin cut side up in a rimmed pan and put 1 T of water in each half. Cover with foil and bake for one hour, or until flesh is tender when pricked with a fork. When flesh is cool enough to handle, scoop from shell with a spoon and place into the bowl of a food processor fitted with its steel blade. Puree until completely smooth. Pour puree into a cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander (2 layers of cheesecloth is fine). Let drain over a large bowl in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or up to 3 days.

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