Use instead of canned
Homemade pumpkin puree has a better taste, texture, color, and aroma than pumpkin puree from a can. Make a large batch to freeze and use whenever a recipe calls for canned pumpkin. Click through to learn how.
Small and sweet
When choosing pumpkins for puree, look for smaller, dense pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins are fantastic, as are Baby Pam. There are heirloom pumpkins (that often do not look anything like what you think a pumpkin should) that are also excellent, including Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, Long Pie, Peek-a-Boo, and New England Pumpkin.
Prepare the raw pumpkins
Begin by washing the exterior of the pumpkin and cutting it in half. Scrape out all of the seeds, and save to roast if desired.
Prepare to steam
Two of the best ways to cook the pumpkins for puree are steaming and roasting. I prefer steaming because it is quicker and easier when making a lot of puree at once. To steam, place the pieces of cleaned pumpkin in a roasting pan and fill the bottom with an inch of water. Then seal the pan with foil. To roast, place the pumpkins flesh side down on a walled baking sheet lined with a silicone mat.
Roast until the flesh is tender
The pumpkins will roast in the oven set to 400°F for 1 to 1.5 hours. If you steam the pumpkins, use caution when removing the foil on top—that steam can cause a nasty burn!
Checking for doneness
When the pumpkins are finished cooking, the flesh will be very soft. You should be able to insert a knife without applying any pressure at all.
Cool the pumpkins
Whether you've steamed or roasted the pumpkins, allow them to cool flesh-side down on a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan. This will allow extra moisture to drip out.
Squeeze out additional moisture
Pumpkins are full of water. For a nice, concentrated puree that is the same consistency as canned, squeeze the pumpkin firmly to release some of the water. A little is okay; stop when squeezing just yields small drips.
Pumpkins after squeezing
This is what the pumpkins should look like after some squeezing. Still moist, but not saturated.
Scoop out the flesh
Use a metal spoon to scrape the flesh out of the pumpkin skin and into the bowl of a food processor. Fill the processor no more than 3/4 of the way. If you are making more than that, work in batches. It's okay if small pieces of skin get in the bowl; you will remove them in the final step.
Puree until smooth
Puree the pumpkin for 1 minute, then stop, scrape down the sides, and let process for another minute. This will help break down any stringy fibers and make the puree smooth and velvety.
Press through a sieve or tamis
Working in small batches, pass the puree through a sieve (a drum tamis works best) and into a bowl using a flexible scraper to extricate any solid particles of seeds, skin, or stubborn fibers.
Puree, ready to be an ingredient
Now the puree is ready to be added to recipes. Use it as a substitute for canned, wherever a recipe calls for it.