While many people buy pumpkins purely for decoration these gourds can make tasty meals as well. Instead of buying canned pumpkin puree, it's easy to make your own while fresh pumpkins are in season. Baked pumpkin makes a fabulous side dish with the simple addition of butter, salt, and pepper. Keep in mind that not all pumpkin flesh is bright orange like the canned puree. The photo, for example, is of a variety called "pumpkin pie" pumpkin. Its flesh was yellower and the flavor was sweeter than the canned. Smaller pumpkins are preferable for baking while larger ones are better for carving.
- 1 fresh pumpkin (up to 4 pounds)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Cut top from the pumpkin. Scrape out stringy membranes and seeds. (Reserve seeds to make Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, if desired.)
3. Cut pumpkin into large pieces and place in a roasting pan. Pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the pan and cover with foil. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and easily pierced with a fork. Let cool until you can comfortably handle it.
4. Scrape the soft pulp from the skin into a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Discard the skin. Pulse until evenly pureed. Reheat if serving immediately or refrigerate and use within 3 days. The pumpkin puree may be frozen in an airtight container or zip-top bag for 10 to 12 months.
Adding different spices will change the type of pumpkin puree you've made. Here are two different flavors you can make.
Savory Pumpkin Puree: Add butter, salt, and pepper to taste to the pumpkin puree. Add brown sugar for a sweeter side dish. Makes a great menu substitution for mashed potatoes.
Pumpkin Pie Puree: Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and brown sugar to the pumpkin puree. Pumpkin pie spice blend may be substituted for the spices, if you wish.
Notes: Choose smaller pumpkins weighing 2 to 4 pounds for eating purposes. Overly-large pumpkins tend to be dry and stringy.