Now that Halloween is over, I always feel sad for the pumpkins, their season is over, and the glorious orange colour that they lend to the fall season is quickly replaced by the reds and greens of Christmas, as they are sadly placed by curb or composter, their usefulness seemingly done. When we pick our pumpkins, I always make sure to pick 3 or 4 small pie pumpkins to decorate with, (not the two pictured above, these are regular pumkins!) so that at least a few will live on in some tasty fall baking. (I did bring home 3 this year, but as you see in the picture on the roasting pan, only two made it to my oven, one seems to have met an untimely end. No one knows quite how it managed to fall off the porch and smash on the front walk…we seem to have a pumpkin killer in our midst!)
Roasting pumpkins is very easy, and with the little pie pumpkins, I find the flavour better than any thing you get out of a can, albeit a wee bit more moist. When using homemade pumpkin puree, be sure to adjust your other liquids accordingly if your recipe calls for canned pumpkin, a bit less liquid is probably recommended, as canned pumpkin tends to be a bit denser in texture.
Roasted Pumpkin Puree
Choose nice firm pumpkins, your pumpkin patch will probably have ones specifically for baking; they are sometimes called pie pumpkins, or small sugar pumpkins. They are much better choices for baking, having a much higher sugar content, and smoother dense flesh. Look for pumpkins that are free from blemishes or soft spots.
Wash the outside of the pumpkin, and remove the stem. I find this easiest by giving the stem a quick whack on the edge of your counter; this generally makes it pop right off.
Cut the pumpkins in half with a sharp knife, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Set these aside if you are going to roast them. Line a pan with foil, place the pumpkins, cut side down, on the foil, and place in preheated 375 degree oven. Pour a cup to a cup and a half of water in the pan before shutting the oven door. Roast for approx. 1 hour, depending on the size and density of your pumpkin it may take up to 2 hours. When a sharp knife sticks easily thru the flesh, they are cooked.
Remove from oven, taking care not to splash or spill the water, and let cool to room temperature before handling.
When cooled, use a spoon to remove the flesh from the shell.
Place in a bowl, and use an immersion blender to puree. If you like a chunkier puree, a potato masher would work fine as well.
I like to freeze my pumpkin in zip type freezer baggies, feel free to use the freezer container of your choice. When I am preparing to fill my bags, I fold the top to the outside and down about an inch, this keeps the zip lock top part cleaner for closing.
I fill each bag with 2 cups of puree, squeeze out any excess air, and seal. This year I decided to make an indentation in the bag and fold it in half before freezing; this creates two sections, 1 cup each. Depending on the recipe, I will be able to use half the bag or the whole thing, much easier than having to thaw the whole bag when I only need one cup.