Originally Published November 2008
(Update: I didn't grow any of my own pumpkins this year, but I still intend to purchase some nice organic ones from my favorite produce market in the beginning of October and go through this same process with them. I was really happy with the pumpkin puree that I made last year and can't wait to have more of it this year!
It should also be noted that although I originally called this post "canning" pumpkins, I didn't actually can them in the typical sense. It was my intention to make puree and pressure can it, so that I could store the jars in my pantry. What I discovered as I researched was that it is NOT safe to can pumpkin or winter squash puree, and that it can only be done when the squash is in chunks, and still only with a pressure canner, not a boiling-water bath. My new favorite option is to still make the puree, but rather than can it I put it in canning jars and store it in the freezer instead. It is still almost as convenient as having actual canned pumpkin, but far safer!)
Phew... I think I might be done canning for the year! (Unless, of course, I decide to take advantage of borrowing a pressure canner to do up some dry beans for convenience sake, and I think I might have heard my husband mention pears this morning... oh well :)
I started out with those pumpkins on the left:
One of the smaller pumpkins went bad before I got to it, so I was left with six, good sized pie pumpkins.
In the morning, I cut each one in half, seeded it, and baked the halves (cut side down) on cookie sheets, at 350 F for about an hour. I was shocked at how much water they released, for being a smaller variety of pumpkin! I left them for several hours to cool off, and started to work on them again just after lunch.
This was an idea I got from Kimi's brilliant post on cooking pumpkins for puree. I'm not sure I would have known to do this otherwise, but it made such a huge difference! I must have spent over an hour, pureeing batches of pumpkin in my food processor, and then draining the water out.
I found the best way to drain the puree was to keep flipping the pumpkin over and over (but being careful not to bang the strainer on the bowl, because then the puree leaks out). I also rolled the pumpkin around and around in the strainer, and as more of the liquid drained out, it would sort of clump together in a tighter ball. It took a lot of effort, but I really think that it was worth it, to have puree that is thick and perfect for making breads, muffins, etc.
My original intention was to can the pumpkin using my MIL's pressure canner. Unfortunately, I didn't read ahead and discovered too late (after the pumpkin was already cooked) that you can't use puree for canning, only cubes (for safety reasons). So, at the last minute, I decided to still use my jars, go ahead and make puree, and then freeze it instead.
I actually think this was far easier in the end. No messing around with the canner, and much more convenient than still having to puree cubes when I want to use a can of pumpkin.
So there you have it- the relatively painless route to delicious, spiced pumpkin bread and pies all winter long (or have you seen Kimi's latest muffins? Mmmm...)
What do you do with pumpkins? Does anyone else like to make and preserve their own puree from fresh pumpkins?