Summer is officially over, and while it would be oh-so-easy to lament the shortening of the days and the lengthening of my sleeves (and hemlines), I prefer to celebrate the treasures of the season. I love being able to throw on a cute dress and a pair of flats and be out of the door in 5 minutes, don’t get me wrong, but there is something so wonderful about getting to pull out your chunky knit sweaters, wool tights, and leather boots. It’s so much easier to look stylish when the weather cools down, since layering always makes an outfit more interesting and requires more creativity.
But we’re here to talk about food, right? Fall food, to be specific, and there is nothing more ubiquitously fall than pumpkin. I’m not going to tell you how much I love pumpkin, because you’ve heard it before. I will, however, tell you how great pumpkin is for you, in addition to being delicious and versatile. Pumpkin is super high in antioxidants and Vitamins A, C, and E. This fruit also provides a good dose of B vitamins, such as folate, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, and thiamin. It’s also got minerals – iron, magnesium, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. How great is that? AND it’s super low cal, at only 26 calories per 100g. It really is a super-fruit. Be prepared for a lot of pumpkin recipes in the weeks to come!
Anyway, every year at this time we set aside an afternoon to make pumpkin puree. Doing it yourself is really cost effective – $6 worth of pumpkin yielded us 16 cups of pumpkin puree, compared to $3-4 per can of organic pumpkin puree – and it means that you always have pumpkin on hand, no matter the time of year, waiting to be incorporated into baked goods, oatmeal, or smoothies. No last minute dashes to the store in this household, at least for pumpkin-related needs. If you can’t tell, this makes me pretty excited!
This year, we drove to a farm in Kettleby (just north of Vaughan) to get some local pumpkins and breathe in some crisp autumnal air. The place was pretty darn cute, and we left with some great maple syrup, squash, and beets along with our pumpkins. Score!
The whole process of going from raw pumpkin to usable puree is pretty simple, but admittedly a little time consuming, so you’ll need to set aside a couple of hours to get it done. Fortunately, Conor was around to help me this year, so we got through it in no time. Two pairs of hands are always better than one!
Pumpkin Puree (makes about 16 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkins)
~ Gluten free, vegan, grain-free, refined sugar free, soy free, nut free ~
- 6 pie pumpkins (or more, or less, depending on how much you’d like to make)
- food processor
- colander and large bowls
- cheesecloth or paper towel
Step 1: Cut the top off your pumpkin and slice it in half. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line 2-4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
You can do this most easily with a cleaver, though a knife will work as well. Conor was making an axe for his Halloween costume at the same time, so it seemed appropriate to give him the cleaving job. We roasted 6 pumpkins, but feel free to do more or less. 6 was all that would fit in my oven.
Step 2: Remove the seeds.
I find that putting on a pair of gloves and grabbing an ice cream scoop is the most efficient way to do this – use the scoop to get the seeds and flesh out, then your gloves to quickly separate the seeds into a bowl for roasting. If you’re not planning on roasting the seeds, you just need to scoop everything out.
Step 3: Place your pumpkins cut side down on the baking trays and roast for 45 minutes to an hour.
Step 4: Let the pumpkins cool and then pull off the skins. They should come off with little to no effort.
Step 5: Transfer your roasted pumpkins to a food processor and process until smooth.
Step 6: Place a colander over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth or paper towel. Pour the pumpkin puree into the cloth and let drain for a few hours, or overnight.
Step 7: Portion your puree into bags.
I did a combination of 1 cup (for pie and pumpkin muffins/bread) and 1/4 cup (for adding to baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal), but choose whatever works best for you.
Step 8: Stick your bags into the freezer and get ready for a year of great snacking and baking!
- To roast your pumpkin seeds, simply line another baking sheet with parchment paper, toss with some sea salt and black pepper (or whatever flavourings you like), and bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour.