While I do keep organic canned pumpkin in my pantry for “emergencies,” I prefer to use fresh pumpkin purée made from homegrown pumpkins in my recipes whenever possible.
It is really easy to make purée from fresh pumpkins. First, make sure you use a “sugar pumpkin” or a “cheese pumpkin” (the cheese pumpkin happens to be my favorite: it’s the heirloom variety I grow in my garden). Don’t use the big pumpkins you carve — the flesh isn’t as sweet and it’s too “stringy.”
One pound of peeled, seeded and cleaned pumpkin will yield about 1 cup of pumpkin purée. The typical cans called for in recipes have almost 2 cups, so choose how many pumpkins you will need accordingly. Keep in mind that about 2 pounds of pumpkin will make one pie.
Instructions for Homemade Pumpkin Purée
Start with clean pumpkin(s) and slice in half. Scrape out the seeds (you can reserve them to make roasted pumpkin seeds, if you like). Set aside the fibrous material.
If your pumpkin(s) are small, you can leave them cut in half. If large (like a cheese pumpkin), you can chop into smaller pieces. Drizzle with a little olive oil, coconut oil, or melted butter, if you like, and place pumpkin pieces cut side down in a foil-lined roasting pan. Cover with more foil.
Bake until the pumpkin is very soft — this will take about 45 minutes. Another option is to place your pumpkin pieces in a colander over boiling water, cover, and steam until fully cooked.
Whichever way you choose to cook your pumpkin, make sure you allow it to cool completely before continuing on with your pumpkin purée. Then, scrape the cooked pumpkin away from the skins (skins can go with the stringy fibers in your compost) and place in a bowl. You can then use your blender or food processor (or mash by hand) to get your purée to a smooth consistency.
If your cooked pumpkin seems watery, you should drain the moisture from the purée by putting it in a colander lined with paper towels or dish towels over a bowl. Allow it to drain for several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator. When it is ready, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Use to make pumpkin pie, muffins, or in any other recipe that calls for canned pumpkin.
— Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen
Photo Credit: Winnie Abramson