Wednesday, November 7, 2012

fresh pumpkin puree

Remember my pink pumpkins? Well, in a moment of zeal the other week, I found myself cutting up the smallest one so I could try cooking it up.

I don't know what came over me. It was already around 3 in the afternoon. I had begun the process of making a new bread recipe (three loaves of oatmeal raisin bread), finished another batch of tzatizki, and had cleaned all the bathrooms earlier in the day.

I think I thought that since the oven was going to be on anyway I might as well do a pumpkin and see how it goes. And then I figured I had to do the seeds at the same time (oven efficiency etc.) and it wasn't too long before I found myself without any counter-space or time left.

Slicing a pumpkin open is fairly dangerous and scary and is really the hardest part of this whole task. This one seemed to crack so once I got a line sliced, I hit it on the counter to separate the halves. I read that a serrated bread knife does a safer job, but I tried that on another pumpkin and I thought it was more difficult and messy.

As I scraped out all the seeds and stringy membrane, I realized that I've never seen such beautiful pumpkin seeds before. These were plump, white, and perfect.

The seeds became a drain on time, though. And definitely, if I've ever thought it about anything, a job for children. Standing in the kitchen, picking seeds from pumpkin membrane is so tedious and tiring. If I didn't have pumpkin bits strewn everywhere and slimy orange hands, I would have taken the bowl into the living room to work on it so I could sit comfortably with the tv on (I think I'm getting old). Also, my next house is going to have so much natural light in the kitchen, it's going to make visitors ooh and aww (and all my prep pictures won't look like they were taken inside a gas station bathroom).

So back to the pumpkin cooking (which is the point to this anyhow). Initially, I was going to use the oven because it had to be on for my bread, but after one singular google search, I found that steaming pumpkin is faster, so out came my steamer pot (really just a big pasta pot) and my stove was commissioned for steaming.

I ended up cutting the pumpkin into quarters so they'd fit in the pot better. Depending on the size of the quarter, they took around 45-60 minutes to cook. So this is not a job you should start at the end of your day.

Once done, I removed the segment with a ladle and a slotted spoon (cuz I didn't really have a better plan for getting the pumpkin out of the pot) and let it cool in a bowl until I could safely handle it.

The pumpkin meat scrapes out fairly easily, but the rind will also come off easily so just be sure not to get bits of skin in your pulp. All that's left is to puree it and, like magic and unicorns, you've made your own pumpkin puree! Wasn't that so much better than buying a can at the store?! Except now it's 7 and you've only got one more segment left to cook, and your back is aching and your feet are tired (because you really should've left the seeds for a separate project) and usually you're falling asleep in front of the tv around this time, so don't worry about that damn last pumpkin slice until tomorrow.

{pumpkin puree}

1 sugar pumpkin (jack-o-lantern pumpkins have barely any pulp inside -- you know, so you can cut a face out of them easily. Note the inside difference on mine -- and are apparently very watery so don't bother with them)

Carefully, slice the pumpkin in half and use a spoon (or ice cream scoop) to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Cut the halves in half again (in quarters) so they can easily fit into a steamer pot. Add one quarter to the pot (or two if you can fit it) and fill the pot with enough water so it's about a quarter to half way up the side of the pumpkin slice and there's enough so the pot doesn't boil dry, then turn your heat to high. Once boiling, lower the heat to about medium low or just so the water continues steaming but isn't at a rolling boil.

Check on your pumpkin periodically with a fork (by that I mean to jab it). Once it's soft all the way through, remove the pumpkin from the pot and allow to cool to the touch. With a spoon, scoop the pulp from the skin, then puree the pulp with an immersion blender or regular blender (whichever works for you). The amount of puree you get varies with the pumpkin. Mine netted me the equivalent of 6 cans (and a bit) of pumpkin puree. You can use it for recipes right away or do what I did and measure it out (so you know how much to take out for future recipes) then freeze it in well-labeled freezer bags (I like using bags now because I can freeze things flat and it takes up a lot less space than jars or plastic tubs).

{note} All in all, it is more economical to make your own. I've since had the pleasure of figuring out if this whole venture was worth it and, had I bought the equivalent in cans, I would have spent around $16 (given the price at Superstore last week). So, minus the amount for the pumpkin itself, I saved $10. I've also been using pumpkin for just about everything lately. Recipes coming soon!

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