10/28/2013

pumpkin pureé

Yum

Alright, tell the truth: how many pumpkin recipes have you saved so far this year? I'd say between online bookmarking, Pinterest and the general tearing of pages from magazines (my apologies to anyone at my gym or in any waiting room I've visited that thought they were going to finish any articles), I'm roughly in the field of four million. At least.


So with four million, and counting, pumpkin recipes to get through, you can imagine that they all have at least one similar ingredient: pumpkin pureé, of course. Which means you could either buy a lifetime supply of the canned stuff from your local market OR you could wander over to the actual pumpkins in the produce section and make your own.

I have been previously scared off from using my own pumpkin for recipes. Too much work, some would say, results too stringy, others would gripe. Sheesh. Why would you bother when you can buy it ready-to-go in a convenient can? Well, generally because making your own usually results in a better flavor, PLUS, now having tried it, and always excited for an excuse to whip out the immersion blender: it's FUN.


There's not really any necessary ingredients for this project other than of course a pumpkin, any size or variety will do (for this particular round I used a Rouge vif D'Etampes, a French heirloom variety that is also known as the "Cinderella" pumpkin. You know, the one she rode off in to meet Prince Charming. That one.

Next, Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

The best way to carve into one of these guys is with a big (sharp) serrated knife. Be super careful, since the skin can be a little tough to work through. Once you get through the outer layer, it should get a bit easier, since there's usually about an inch or two of flesh before you get to the pumpkin's hollow center.


Depending on the size and shape of your pumpkin, cut into manageable chunks. For the rounder ones, you can usually just cut them directly in half. For the types that are more squatty and flat, quarters tend to make more sense. Scoop out the guts and seeds (yep) and set aside for roasting separately later: depending on the flavor palate you go for, pumpkin seeds can go great in salads, on granola, oatmeal, etc.

Place your pumpkin pieces flesh side down on a large baking sheet. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may need two baking sheets or to bake them in rotation. Flesh side down is mega important, otherwise you'll end up with dry, dehydrated pumpkin: pass. You could drizzle the flesh side with olive oil before you pop them in the oven, but this step isn't necessarily crucial. Consider what you will use the purée for: Soup? Risotto? Baking projects? If you plan on a strictly savory route, a little olive oil does wonders. Otherwise, simply place in the oven as is for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the pumpkin. A simple note: while you can use homemade purée for just about any recipe that calls for pumpkin, including recipes that don't (pumpkin is a great substitute for oil or fat in many baking recipes), when the ingredients list calls for "packed" pumpkin, it's super important to strain your mixture, as a homemade purée is much more liquid-y than the canned stuff. If you skip that step, you may risk ruining your dough because of the excess moisture.


You'll know that your pumpkin is ready when you give the skin side a gentle poke: if it collapses immediately or gives way to the fork or spoon, you're ready to go. If it doesn't fold easily or leave an indentation, wait a bit longer.


Once the pieces are nicely cooked, take them out of the oven to cool for a few minutes. Then, using a metal spoon which makes scraping easier, scoop the roasted flesh from the pumpkin skin and deposit into a large bowl or pot. Once you've down this to all the pieces, it's time to blend using either an immersion blender or a regular once, which you can use if you purée in batches.


The Rouge vif D'Etampes yielded a LOT of purée, so I ended up freezing most of it (which is perfect for when you want to use pumpkin later in the season) and canning the rest. If you prefer neither of those options, it's best to use the purée within 7 days of making it, for optimum freshness.