The pumpkin is a versatile thing. Whether it’s in the classic pie, my killer cake, a nontraditional bread pudding, the amazing Afghan kaddo bourani, or the simplest pumpkin soup (see below), it’s always a comfort and super easy to prepare. Now that autumn is creeping up on you northerners, I won’t hesitate any longer to provide instructions to make your very own pumpkin purée. Though the cans are mighty convenient, fresh is better (for your taste buds and the environment) and besides, not everyone lives in a first world country where canned pumpkin is readily available.
I must admit, I did stow away some canned pumpkin for my move to Sydney. It may or may not be hiding out in the back of my cupboard for emergency situations. And I sometimes dream of a world in which canned pumpkin can be found on every supermarket shelf alongside instant pudding mix, clamato juice and Reese’s pieces. But that’s not the point! The point is: would you make pumpkin soup out of canned pumpkin? I didn’t think so.
If you’re not convinced, stick around, I’m only just getting started. Making your own pumpkin purée requires no fancy electrical appliance, no elbow grease and almost no effort. Just a knife, an oven and a pot. Or, if you’re reeeeeallly lazy, and I know some of you are, just a knife and a pot.
Apart from the ease factor – yes, Nina, even YOU can make it – pumpkins last practically forever and look festive on the counter top or as a centerpiece. They are also really inexpensive and extremely healthy.
Wait! I’m not done! One little pumpkin will make enough purée for a ton of different recipes and can easily be frozen for future culinary endeavors. AND – get this – every time I’ve said or will say pumpkin, you could substitute it with butternut squash or any other kind of edible squash for that matter. It might change the flavor slightly, but the process and uses are pretty much the same.
So! Let’s list all the delicious things we can make with pumpkin/squash purée, shall we?
Peanut Butter Pumpkin Brownies (yes, please!)
Pumpkin Bran Vegan Pancakes (I think this is my cue to stop)
…and the list, I assure you, could go on and on.
So, now that you’re convinced, I present you with simple instructions to make your very own pumpkin (or squash) purée. Unless you can’t find one thing on that list that makes your stomach growl, now you have no excuse. Or at least you understand how much I really do love making lists.
And if, after making the homemade stuff, you suddenly feel a guttural repulsion to the cans of pumpkin in your pantry, don’t panic. Just put them all in a box and send it to me. I know lots of ways to get rid of them.
You can use a pumpkin or a squash. You can use a whole gourd or one that’s pre-sliced from the supermarket. To give you an idea of quantity, one full medium butternut squash will make about 4 cups of purée that you can use in sweets OR will serve as soup for about 6 first courses.
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Line a baking tray with tin foil.
Take one pumpkin or butternut squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard them (unless you like pepitas! If you do, save them, dry them, toss them with salt and spices and bake them.)Poke around the flesh with a fork, and put the pumpkin skin-side down on the tray.
When the oven is preheated, pop the tray in the oven for anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the flesh is really easily punctured with a fork and the skin comes away easily.
Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly so you can handle it. Now, rip or cut off the skin and throw it away. Scoop all the flesh into a large pot and just barely cover with water. Cook down over medium-high heat, stirring every once in awhile, until the pumpkin is becoming a complete mush. Mash it up with a big spoon. Cook more to make the purée thicker, or add more water if it’s too thick. You’re done!
Follow above instructions for pumpkin purée. Add salt and pepper. Serve.