So, I’ve gotten so I only plant one kind of pumpkin on our homestead these days. Winter Luxury pie pumpkin is my absolute, hands-down favorite, so I don’t waste garden space planting any other variety. It’s sweet, dry, fine-textured, perfect for baking with – and it’s PRETTY. That white netting over the deep orange just makes me happy!
It does, however, have one minor downside. I discovered the hard way last year that it is not a very good keeper. Unlike the blue hubbard squash, which were still firm and perfect as I was feeding them to the pigs in May, these get squizzly and start to rot very early. Even at cool basement temperatures, they really need to get used or preserved by Thanksgiving. So – it’s marathon pumpkin cooking time around here!
My favorite way to preserve pumpkin, is pureed, and frozen. I love having it all ready to work with, in easy one-cup portions. So, while I do can and dehydrate some, this is how I use the bulk of our pumpkins. If you’ve never roasted pumpkin for puree – it’s SO easy. Here’s the method I use.
First, you chop those beautiful pumpkins in half. While just about every tutorial you’ll ever read for roasting pumpkin will instruct you to cut through the pumpkin from top to bottom, I’ve found that I can fit more pumpkins in my oven if I cut along the equator – through the middle. I figure, if I’m going to roast pumpkin, go big or go home, right?
Another thing I do a little differently – I bake pumpkins on parchment paper. “But won’t they make a mess of my oven?”, you ask. If you’re working with good, fine-fleshed, pie pumpkins (as opposed to some of the extra-large decorative varieties), then nope. They really don’t drip, certainly not enough to make a mess on the bottom of the oven.
If you’re just doing one or two, by all means, place those puppies cut-side-down on baking sheets. But if you’re trying to cram your oven full like I do, parchment paper works very well. I don’t use aluminum foil, because it’s important to me to avoid cooking food in contact with aluminum.
Bake at 350, for about an hour. You’ll know they’re done when the skin darkens and looks “puckery”. You can also poke them with a finger – they should be very squishy feeling, right through the skin. I like to turn off the oven, and let them sit right where they are, until they’re cool enough to handle. Then remove them from the oven, and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
I use my Kitchen Aid for pureeing the cooked flesh to a beautifully smooth consistency. A food processor works great as well. The only reason I generally opt for the Kitchen Aid is that it holds more. Whichever appliance you use, it doesn’t take long to puree it into a lovely, smooth texture.
Once I’ve pureed it, I use a measuring cup to make one-cup mounds of puree, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put the whole thing in the freezer, and freeze for a few hours, or overnight. I then put the frozen portions into freezer bags, and use my vacuum sealer to seal them up.
I bother with this extra step of freezing in portions before bagging, because it make it so easy to pull out the number of portions I need, and let them thaw (out of the bag) in the mixing bowl I plan to use. This way, I don’t end up trying to scrape every last messy bit of puree out of a mushy freezer bag. I find it SO much tidier.
Anyway, that’s all there is to it! Super easy, and super handy for using in all that holiday baking we’re about to do! Happy baking, my friends!!