by: Ruben Urias
Nothing stokes the creative fires of home cooks more than the holidays. Every year, the adventurous rush out to buy the freshest “this” or organic “that.” Yet, without fail, the one item most synonymous with the holidays gets relegated to simple canned-form. The noble pumpkin does not deserve this fate.
This bias against the pumpkin almost seems unfair. While many a home cook have set their homes, yards, and eyebrows ablaze while trying to submerge a 10 lb. ball of game bird into a boiling pot of oil, many of these same people balk at the idea of pureeing roasted pumpkins. True, the chances of serious bodily harm are minimal when roasting gourds. And perhaps the risk-factor is so low that cooks assume there is no adventure to be had. The fact is, making pumpkin filling is foreign enough to most American cooks that it will still provide a sense of accomplishment despite its simplicity.
PUMPKIN FILLING RECIPE
To make your own pumpkin filling, you will need the items listed below. The most important thing to keep in mind for this recipe is that you will need to buy sugar pumpkins, not just small pumpkins. The color and appearance of the pumpkins you choose make little difference. Just be sure to avoid pumpkins that show signs of rot. Also, while this recipe calls for 3 lbs. of sugar pumpkins, the total amount needed is easily adjusted to fit your needs. Generally, 3 lbs. of whole sugar pumpkins will yield a bit over two cups of puree. And throughout testing, each pumpkin produced about half or just a bit less than its weight in ounces (e.g. a 4 lb. or 64 oz. pumpkin produced approximately 4 cups or 32 ounces of puree.) So plan accordingly.
- 3 lbs. Whole Sugar Pumpkin(s)
- Food Processor
- Roasting Pan
- Kitchen Knife
- Sturdy Table Spoon
STEP 1: CUT AND SEED.
After washing to remove dirt, carefully cut off the top of the pumpkin with a knife. Reserve. Then cut the pumpkin in half, vertically. Using a spoon, and a pairing knife if needed, remove all seeds. The seeds are the most important item to remove, so do not worry if there is some pulp remaining in the pumpkin halves.
STEP 2: ROAST.
Preheat oven to 350F. Fill a roasting pan with about 1/4 inch of water. Place the pumpkin pieces into the pan, skin-side up. If the cap piece has a decent amount of flesh on it, approximate 3/4 of an inch or more, this may also be roasted. Do not crowd the pumpkin. However, if the pieces much touch, arrange them so that the contact with each other is minimal. Place the pan in the oven for 90 minutes.
STEP 3: REST.
After 90 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. You may test the pumpkin at this time, if desired, by poking the insides of the pieces with a fork. Your pumpkin should yield to the fork fairly easily, and be slightly more firm than a yam or baked potato. Cover tightly with foil or heavy duty plastic wrap. Let the pumpkin rest for at least 20 minutes to allow carry over cooking to do its job, and to let the pieces cool enough to handle.
STEP 4: SCRAPE AND SCOOP.
After roasting and resting, the pumpkin is now ready to scoop. The finished pumpkin pieces should have a saturated appearance, and be honey-orange in color. Using a sturdy table spoon, scrape out the flesh into a bowl or directly into your food processor receptacle. The skin is rather tough, so you can scrape it firmly with the spoon without tearing.
STEP 5: PUREE.
Once loaded, into the food processor, simply pulse the pumpkin until a smooth puree is achieved. Your pumpkin filling is now ready for use.
COMPLETE: USE AS NEEDED
You can use the puree immediately or it can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days in an airtight plastic container. Use the pumpkin as you would any store bought filling. A few dashes of ginger, cloves, and all spice will give the filling the holiday flavor you desire; but of course, refer to your selected recipes.
Part of the fun of having fresh pumpkin filling is the anticipation of how it will be used. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin bars, soup, sauces, and even mashes can all be made with your fresh puree. What’s more, the same recipes you’ve used for years will seem like brand new dishes. You will feel that sense of adventure without even changing the menu—easy as pumpkin.