Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) Puree

Roasted Pumpkin Puree



PHOTO TUTORIAL  |  PRINTABLE RECIPE  |  HUNGRY FOR TIPS?

Fear Conquered: Fresh Pumpkin Puree

"Can mom make pumpkin pie now?" I asked my dad. I was 5, still dressed in my homemade Lancelot Halloween costume, and my dad had just blown out the candle in the jack-o-lantern.

Two days earlier, I had made the tenuous connection between the slimy, stringy guts of the pumpkin and the annual Thanksgiving pie my mom made once a year. I can’t take credit for figuring it out on my own. "This is where pumpkin pies come from," my dad told me.

"Nuh-uh," I came back immediately, laughing. "You're teasing."

"No I'm not," my dad said, his face stone serious. I narrowed my eyes and scrutinized him watchfully. "You scoop out the fleshy part of the pumpkin and use it to make pumpkin pie," he went on.

“Nuh-uh,” I tried again, not quite as confidently.

“Yeah-huh,” he came back. And his face was still serious.

Friend's Carved Jack-o-Lanterns
My friend Dan's Jack-o-Lanterns

So there I stood in my Lancelot costume, bag of candy in hand, ready to cart the jack-o-lantern carcass into my mom's kitchen so she could scoop out the inside and bake pies. But my dad grunted and tilted the jack-o-lantern so I could look inside. Black, sooty, leathery. Nothing like the pale orange from the day before.

"You can't use jack-o-lantern pumpkins for pumpkin pie," my dad said, half smiling as I stared in sadness at the wasted pumpkin innards. "The candle burns the inside."

"Can we buy another pumpkin for pie then?" I pleaded. I wanted pie, dang-namit! (Only I probably didn’t think “dang-namit” then. Or much of anything except how big of a slice I could wrangle. And I know I didn’t think wrangle.)

"They sell pumpkin in cans," my dad explained. "It's much easier and a lot less stringy."

And right then, at the age of 5, the fear of fresh pumpkin purée was born. It’s been alive ever since, fueled year after year by the relentless arbitrary insistence from the pumpkin-pie-maker gods that the pureed slop in a can is the secret to really good pumpkin pie. And if you should timidly suggest using fresh pumpkin, duck and cover:

“Stringy!”

“Watery!”

“Pain in the butt!”

“Doesn’t taste right!”

“Canned is traditional!”

It’s enough to give anyone a pumpkin complex and vow to keep the pumpkin-pie-maker gods happy with the requisite can of pumpkin slop for the making of the annual pumpkin pie. Or you could be like me and avoid pumpkin puree altogether. Let others do the pumpkin-pie making - and blissfully pretend you don’t know you’re eating pie made from a can lined with chemicals like BPA.

Have I preached about BPA before? It’s why I don’t cook or bake from cans...anymore. It’s a long and stale story, it makes me sound like a crazy person, and some people get really irritated when I go on and on about the health implications of ingesting BPA. They call me things. Dog with a bone and such.

But you get it - I don’t like cans.

Pie Pumpkin

So when I started drafting a recipe for pumpkin pie last year, I almost bought a can of pumpkin puree. Because of the pumpkin-pie-maker gods. And because I could still see my dad’s half-smile at my foolish notion of using fresh pumpkin from a jack-o-lantern. The foolish boy who thought he could make pumpkin pie without a can.

I don’t like feeling foolish.

But I didn’t buy the can of pumpkin puree, and to this day I’ve never bought a can of the slop. I say slop arbitrarily, just like the pumpkin-pie-maker gods say stringy arbitrarily. I don’t actually know that canned puree is slop - I’ve never seen it. But I do know that fresh pumpkin puree is not stringy and I feel one arbitrary malignment deserves another. (I don’t really believe that, I just thought it sounded dramatic. Until I just bothered to explain it.)

Roasted Pumpkin Puree Closeup

I also can’t tell you fresh pumpkin puree tastes better than canned - I’ve never tried canned. I can’t tell you fresh pumpkin puree isn’t watery because I have no basis for comparison. And I can’t tell you fresh pumpkin isn’t a pain in the butt to make because anything - ANYTHING - is painful compared to the exhaustive labor involved with pressing the button on your electric can opener.

But I can tell you fresh pumpkin puree makes better pumpkin pies. If you believe me. And Boyfriend Javelin. And his family. And his co-workers. And you don’t mind that I’m biased. But you should trust me because the fresh pumpkin puree really does bake up a better pie. Although it might just be the spices.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Because I’ve never tried my pumpkin pie recipe using the canned puree. (See? I was the bigger person and didn’t arbitrarily call it slop.)

I can also assure you that making your own fresh pumpkin puree is easy. I figured out the basics on my first try. Which isn’t very impressive. A monkey (and not even a smart monkey) could be trained to do this. And then the not-so-bright monkey could train an even more not smart monkey to do it. Not that I’m comparing you to a monkey. Gosh, now it sounds like I am. I’m not.

It’s just really easy. You cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, put the halves on a baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes. Then you scoop out the flesh - and puree. It kind of seems wrong to have a recipe for this. And it kind of seems wrong to have written this many words about it. Kind of.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

Then again, the fear of fresh pumpkin puree goes deep. So deep, I still sometimes wonder if I should try my pumpkin pie recipe with canned pumpkin. Because the pumpkin-pie-maker gods (and my dad) might be right. They might be silently laughing at my foolishness. Stupid jack-o-lantern kid...

But this is a post about conquering fears. So voila! Fear conquered. Mostly.



STORY  |  PRINTABLE RECIPE  |  HUNGRY FOR TIPS?

Photo Tutorial

Stem of Pumpkin Broken OffButternut Squash, Stem Removed
Remove the stem from the pumpkin or butternut squash

Pie Pumpkin, HalvedButternut Squash, Halved
Halve the pumpkin or butternut squash (top to bottom)

Seeds Scooped Out of PumpkinSeeds Scooped Out of Squash
Scoop out the seeds and pulp

Pumpkin Halves Placed on Baking TrayButternut Squash Placed on Baking Tray
Place halves cut-side-down on baking sheet or tray

Roasted PumpkinRoasted Butternut Squash
Roast in hot oven until easily pierced with fork

Scooping Pumpkin Flesh Into BlenderScooping Roasted Butternut Squash into Blender
Scoop flesh into blender or food processor

Roasted Pumpkin Puree
Puree until smooth

Roasted Pumpkin Puree
Pureed Roasted Butternut Squash
Cool, then refrigerate or freeze



STORY  |  PHOTO TUTORIAL  |  HUNGRY FOR TIPS?

Roasted Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Puree

     by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 5 min
     Cook Time: 30 min


Ingredients (2-4 cups puree)
  • 1 pie pumpkin, OR
  • 1 butternut squash
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400℉ degrees (375℉ for butternut squash)
  2. Wash the squash and remove the squash stem with your fingers (or a sharp knife for a butternut squash)
  3. Halve the squash from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds using an ice cream scoop or large spoon (the seeds can be saved for roasting later if desired)
  4. Place the squash halves cut-side-down on a baking sheet or tray and roast in the oven (25-35 minutes for pumpkin and 35-45 min for squash, depending on size)
  5. Remove from the oven and let the squash steam cut-side-down on baking sheet for 20 minutes
  6. Separate the squash flesh from the skin and add the flesh to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade (or regular blender); pulse the food processor until the squash is pureed and smooth
  7. Allow the squash puree to cool to room temperature, then transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate (up to 7 days) or freeze (up to 6 months)
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2012 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
Powered by Recipage



STORY  |  PHOTO TUTORIAL  |  PRINTABLE RECIPE

Hungry for Tips?
  • You know the squash is properly roasted when you can easily piece the skin and flesh of the squash with a fork. Different sized squash will take different amounts of time (and pumpkin takes less time than butternut squash).

    Inside of Roasted Pumpkin HalfRoasted Butternut Squash
     
  • If you roast your pumpkin or squash long enough, the skin will generally easily separate from the flesh of the squash. However, roasting just a little bit longer will result in over-cooked and browned flesh (which mostly affect the color of the puree, not so much the flavor). I often err on the side of under-roasting my squash to avoid excessively browning the flesh.
     
  • Allowing the pumpkin/squash to steam for 20 minutes after it's finished roasting helps to further loosen the skin from the flesh. It also gives the squash a chance to cool so you don't burn your fingers while scooping out the flesh.

    Roasted Pumpkin
     
  • Some water may separate out of the puree when left in the refrigerator or freezer - it's normal and you can easily remix the water back into the puree until smooth
     
  • I use my CorningWare broiler trays when I roast squash because they clean up easily, however you can certainly use a baking sheet instead (although you may want to line the baking sheet with foil if you're concerned about cleanup as the juices from the squash tend to burn). Do NOT use a glass or stoneware baking dish (unless it's broiler-safe) as the the uneven heat and release of liquid from the squash could cause the dish to explode or crack.

    Blue Cornflower CorningWare Baking Tray
     
  • Why butternut squash puree? Honestly, pumpkin is ok, but I LOVE butternut squash. It's sweeter, bolder, and just plain delicious. So sometimes I like to mix pumpkin and butternut squash together. Or just eat the butternut squash on it's own. Like spoon after spoon after spoon.

    Roasted Butternut Squash Puree Closeup



    11 comments:

    1. I did this myself recently as pumkin puree is really hard to find in cans in the UK and it tasted great... using the squash is a great idea too as quash has a nicer flavour... lovely stuff x

      ReplyDelete
    2. Butternut is better than pumpkin - I agree. Better yet? Sweet potatoes! And they're a lot easier to turn into puree. Anyway, the quality of canned pumpkin is pretty good, but there is that BPA issue. Turning a fresh pumpkin into puree is heaven, however. Good stuff - thanks for this.

      ReplyDelete
    3. I generally stock up on pumpkins during October and early November because right after the US's Thanksgiving, they disappear almost entirely from grocers... And I think butternut squash really is my favorite of all the squash varieties. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Dom...

      ReplyDelete
    4. I love yams, possibly more than butternut squash. I'm less in love with sweet potatoes, but I do love them as fries ;) I'm happy you enjoyed the post and I really, truly cannot comment on the canned variety as I've never seen or tasted it. But there's probably a reason so many folks swear by it for pie...

      ReplyDelete
    5. mjskit @ mjskitchen.comOctober 24, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      My mother always used canned pumpkin and it wasn't until I roasted my own and made the puree from scratch did I realize the enormous difference! Yes - it's a pain, but some pain is worth it. :) As far as which is better- I like it all and I'll agree with KR that we need to add sweet potatoes to the list. Tonight I roasted a butternut squash and there's a pumpkin in the garage waiting to be roasted and pureed. thanks for this great post - I love the story of your dad and your pictures are GREAT!

      ReplyDelete
    6. Looking back, I think I was more terrified of "how" to roast a pumpkin than any difference between fresh or canned puree. And it's funny, because now that I've done it a number of times, it's so not terrifying :) I've never tried to puree a sweet potato (just yams, which I adore) but I'll have to give it a shot. And I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story - it's funny how almost everything in the kitchen conjures up memories...

      ReplyDelete
    7. I was about ready to send you my address so you could convert me to the gods of fresh pumpkin and send me one, when all of the sudden I read about the monkeys... now I'm thinking I'll pretend I'm smart too....and who knows this might be a challenge if I get some free time I would try. After all, you already got me to buy an apple peeler... *smile*

      ReplyDelete
    8. And I saw how simple it was to make the puree but them I'm wondering - okay, so just how does "MARK" make a pumpkin pie. Inquiring minds want to know... giggle.. don't leave me standing at the edge of the cliff wondering... grin

      ReplyDelete
    9. Oh. The part about monkeys. Yeah. That kinda just got away from me ;) But it really is easy and so I really have no choice but to never use canned. As for how I make pumpkin pie, stay tuned. I don't want you staring over the edge of the cliff into an abyss, but I have portion of the pumpkin pie recipe I need to re-photograph before I share. But I'll be sharing soon. Hence, the pumpkin puree recipe :)

      ReplyDelete
    10. Cool beans... or should I say cool pumpkin pie.... I'll try to keep an eye out for it. Hard to keep up because I've been really busy lately.

      ReplyDelete
    11. I love butternut but am not quite sure still on pumpkin but this looks amazing! The color alone is just gorgeous. Love the mix of the butternut and squash.

      ReplyDelete