to can or not to can? that is the question

by Patricia on November 4, 2010 · 8 comments

behold, the pumpkin.

A few years ago, I decided I needed to make a pumpkin pie using an actual pumpkin. Do you get these kinds of urges? I get them all the time. Like what’s the best kind of pie crust? How do you make brown sugar? And what would happen if I substitute a little butter with bacon fat in some chocolate chip cookies?

So I did it. I bought a sugar “pie” pumpkin. When I got it home, I realized I had no clue where to begin. So I consulted books and the internet to figure out what to do with the thing. And then I made a pie. A pie that will live forever in my memory.

While I do still use canned pumpkin, it has become a tradition of mine to make at least 1 pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin each holiday season. And since I buy one or two pie pumpkins as decorations anyway (they’re just cute), the pumpkins do double duty.

So if you have a sugar pumpkin in your decor, consider using it to its full potential.

Now let’s purée some pumpkin.

decapitated decapitated

First, you have to decapitate it. I was a little messy with the first one (on the left), but cut a nice lid from the second. It’s just like cutting the top off of your jack-o-lantern.

clean out the pumpkin clean out the pumpkin

Next, clean it out. I’m not sure why, but I tried cleaning it out the same way as I do for a jack-o-lantern – through the hole up top. But then I got smart and cut the second one in half before cleaning it out. This gives you greater access to the inside and cleaning goes a lot faster.

clean out the pumpkin

I find an ice cream scoop to be the best tool in my kitchen for this messy job. What’s your favorite tool for cleaning out pumpkin guts?

ready for the oven

Place the pumpkin halves on a lined baking sheet (line it with foil or a silpat for easier clean up), cut side down.

stick a fork in it, it's done.

Bake at 325 degrees for about an hour. The pumpkin is done when you can stick a fork in it. The skin will still be a little tough, but with light pressure you should be able to stick the fork through the skin and through the soft insides.

scoop out the good stuff whirr in the food processor or blender

Let it cool and then scoop the pumpkin meat into a food processor and whir it into a purée. [You could also do this in small batches in a blender, or put it through a ricer.]

homemade pumpkin puree

Voila, purée. [I apologize for this photo. No matter how delicious the pie is that you make from it, a tub of pumpkin puree just isn’t very photogenic].

Now use it for a pie or any number of other pumpkin goodies.

Pumpkin Purée

adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1 sugar pumpkin

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil (or a silpat).
  2. Remove the stem. Cut pumpkin in half (cutting top to bottom).
  3. Clean out the stringy membranes and seeds.
  4. Place on a lined baking sheet, cut side down.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or more (depending on the size of your pumpkin). It is done when you can stick a fork through it.
  6. Allow to cool, then scrape out the pumpkin and purée it in a food processor (or in small batches in a blender, or put it through a ricer).
  7. Use it as you would the canned stuff.

Q: What to do with all of those seeds? (You did save them, right?)

save the seeds

A: Roast them, of course!

How to: Toss the seeds in a little olive oil or melted butter (1 tbsp or less depending on how many seeds you have). Sprinkle with salt and pepper (or for variety try a little Chinese five spice or pumpkin pie spice). Roast in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until they start to turn light brown. Let them cool and then hide them from Dan.


1 Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie November 7, 2010 at 11:42 am

Here’s the question that pops up in my brain. I’ve eaten pie made from real pumpkin and it doesn’t necessarily taste different. When I can buy the canned version and it’s organic – what’s your reason for being motivated to do so? I respect your inspiration – I’m just wondering where it originates from.

2 Chere Michelle November 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Hmmm. I tried this years ago, making my own pumpkin pie filling but I must not have pureed enough; it was stringy! I’ll never forget the looks on my family members faces as they chewed, and chewed…chomped their way through my pie. I think I need to re-visit this idea and probably use your guide. Thanks!

3 Paula {Salad in a Jar} November 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Since you asked, I use a grapefruit spoon. The serrated edge works nicely. The puree looks delish but the seeds look even better.

4 Stephanie M at Together In Food November 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Found your blog through the Bay Area Food Bloggers list and am so glad I did! I like your concept and your recipe index; would love to have that as a plugin as I use WP too.

But onto this post–I’ve been thinking of making a pumpkin pie from scratch when we host our entire family (12 people) for Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever but the idea generated feelings of fear. This post and your photo-tutorial makes me feel like I can do it. And I love roasted pumpkin seeds! Thanks for sharing this.

5 Ellen November 5, 2010 at 11:21 am

I did this too a few years ago, but used my puree attachment on the KitchenAid. The pies turned out great!

6 Evan @swEEts November 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I’ve been wanting to make my own pumpkin puree all season so far and I’m so happy now that I have a step by step tutorial :)

7 Eliana November 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I have always been so scared to do this myself. Thanks for motivating me to get over my fear.

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