I’ve been thinking a lot about instructions and tutorials lately at work, and that must have made its way into my subconscious because I’m starting to feel guilty about not updating this blog very much. It’s not for lack of material, since I’ve got a whole folder of photos and notes saved from various projects over the past year — it just seems like there’s always something else more pressing. Given, that’s probably because there was — planning an international wedding, making a pile of holiday presents, then starting a new job will get to ya like that — but still. So with this spring comes my promise to tend this blog more regularly, especially since I’ve got some big plans for both the kitchen and garden. We’re moving into a new house next month, after all.
Let’s talk pumpkins. Back home, you could get pumpkins starting the first day of autumn. Heck, year-round if you count the canned stuff. Convenient, since many of my favorite desserts and dishes use pumpkin puree. Here in Finland, pumpkins are available from mid-October to the first week of November. And that’s about it. This is partly due to the fact that not many pumpkins make it to maturity during our very short summers but also because not many people cook with them here. I got some odd looks when I explained that I was buying the things for consumption rather than decoration. Add that to the fact that I was going around to every supermarket and farmer’s stall in town buying out their stock and you might as well has put a big, neon “Crazy American” sign on my forehead.
Whatever, pumpkins are awesome. They smell great when they’re baking and instantly make any dish feel warm, orange, and autumnal. After my pumpkin-lean Thanksgiving of 2010, I decided to stockpile the things every season and make my own supply of puree for the year. It worked out well last year (I only got 2, but they were really substantial ones) and I plan to actually grow my own patch of them in the new garden this year. We will never lack pie again.
Want to make your own pumpkin puree? Check it out…
Find yourself a nice meaty pumpkin. Not one of those thin-rinded things meant for carving, but a sugary pie pumpkin that’s meant for baking and eating. They’re usually smaller, squatter and heavier. It should feel solid in your hands and have a slightly hollow thud when you knock on it. Needless to say, it should be hard and orange. If not, move along and look for something riper.
Cut the pumpkin in half, then into quarters if needed. I have a very small oven, so need to section them up to fit them all on the pan for roasting. Remove the seeds but don’t throw them out! I save them, wash them and bake them later. They’re yummy snacks with a light sprinkling of salt. Place the pumpkin segments skin-up on a baking sheet with a bit of a rim. Pour about a cup of water or so into the baking sheet as well, just to cover the bottom of the sheet. This keeps the pumpkins from getting too brown and caramelized while they bake. Bake the pumpkin at 350°F/175°C for an hour and a half or so. My oven’s a bit on the stronger side, so it takes me less than this. Poke at it with a fork if you’re not sure — it should give easily and be very squishy.
Scoop out the cooked pumpkin flesh. I use an ice cream scoop because it’s more efficient than a spoon. Puree the pumpkin. You can do it in a blender or food processor, but I prefer to just use my immersion blender and the mixing bowl I dumped the pumpkin into. It’ll be pretty fast, since the pumpkin so already so soft.
Strain the pumpkin to get out the excess liquid. I line a colander with coffee filters and just let it sit for an hour or so to settle and cool. The volume will decrease signficantly.
Store in fridge or portion into plastic bags for the freezer. I like to put 2 cups per bag, but it’ll depend on how you plan to use the stuff.
There’s tons of recipes to use this stuff on, of course. I’ve also heard of people cooking their pumpkins in the microwave, but I prefer the oven since the baking takes place mostly in the autumn when you kind of appreciate the oven warming the kitchen. Plus, it makes everything smell nice!