How to Make Zero Waste Pumpkin Puree
It’s October! This is one of my favorite months. There’s Halloween right around the corner, one of the best holidays in the States I might add. The leaves are changing to all the brilliant hues of purple, red, gold, brown, and orange. The air is getting that crisp cold fresh scent of autumn. And there are pumpkins everywhere. So I decided to dedicate this month to all things Halloween and especially pumpkins because – well – pumpkins and Halloween are kind of like PB and J. You really can’t have one without the other or, more I should say, you can have one without the other but why would you want to?
So where’s the best place to start?
At the beginning with the basics: a pumpkin puree. Have you ever had fresh pumpkin puree? Sure you can buy cans of it at the grocery store all year round but, like many foods, really it’s so much better when made fresh. And there’s no reason not to! Making pumpkin puree with fresh pumpkin is so easy to do and requires minimal babysitting really.
You only need a pumpkin, a ginormous casserole dish with a lid or you can go old school with a half sheet baking tray and aluminum foil. But more on that later.
What Type of Pumpkins to Buy
If you’ve never bought a pumpkin for cooking before, here’s a couple of things you should know. The large, beastly pumpkins for carving are not the same ones you should use for cooking. Sure, the meat is edible and the seeds are still worth saving, but the flavor will be bland and watery. What you want to be on the lookout for is the smaller pumpkins labeled either “sugar pumpkin” or “pie pumpkin.” They should be between 3 to 8 pounds and free of soft spots and big bruises.
If the pumpkin is healthy and the skin is firm, it should last from 8 to 12 weeks stored in a cool dry place. You’ve really got to procrastinate to let a whole pumpkin go bad! Once cut, it’s a different story. That fella will go bad in 5 to 10 days.
How to Keep This Sustainable
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So far this has been one of the more challenging things to keep zero waste funny enough. I certainly wouldn’t have thought so going in but hear me out. While pie pumpkins are much smaller than the Jack-o-Lantern size ones they are still big-ish. And that does cause a problem.
For most of my life I have always just used the baking tray and foil method. And that works just fine. In fact, I am still using it. But that is because I am still sitting on some aluminum foil that I have had for years. I have stopped using it for everything else and found ways around it in the kitchen. So this last roll has stuck around for a long time. Great, right?
Well it has had me thinking. The purpose of the foil is really to act as a lid. So if I could find a large enough oven-safe container with a lid, I could get around the need for the foil.
Well, that is a little easier said than done. I tried the largest and deepest oval casserole dish I had, and it worked beautifully. However the pumpkin had to be small (a little under 3 lbs.) to fit with the lid on. Which is great if you don’t mind using only small pumpkins. But if you are like me, I make a ton of pumpkin puree and like to buy bigger pie pumpkins.
So I did a little digging and I found a few options that might work. A large oven roaster with a lid might be big enough to work like this stainless steel dome roaster (affiliate link). But if I (or you) can spare the cash, this cast-iron oval roaster (affiliate link) or casserole dish (affiliate link) would be well worth the money. Cast-iron is the best cookware out there in my opinion. And if you take good care of it, it will outlast you.
Let’s start bringing back family heirlooms!
Please keep in mind I haven’t tried any of these yet. But I am very confident that any of these options will work.
Making Pumpkin Puree from Fresh Pumpkin
Once you bring that lovely fella home, you can treat it like any other winter squash. You can microwave, steam, or bake it. But for a pumpkin puree, it’s really best if baked in my opinion.
For one thing, I found cubing pumpkin to be really challenging and tended to lose more pumpkin peeling off the skin. And baking pumpkin has the shortest prep time too. You just wash it and cut that sucker in half. Scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits with either a spoon, ice cream scooper, or by hand (save the seeds though! I’ll be showing you what to do those here.). Place it on a baking tray or roasting pan face down, pour in a thin layer of water (optional if using a dish), cover it with foil or a lid, and pop it in the oven. Wait about 45 mins to an hour and if it can be pierced with a fork very easily (I’m talking like butter at room temperature easy), it’s done.
I usually pull it out and let it cool with the foil or lid still on for about 20-30 minutes. Once cooled, remove the skins (the skins should fall off on their own) and store the pumpkin as it is until you are ready to use it. Depending on how watery it is you can use a cheesecloth to strain out some of the liquid.
Once you are ready to make a puree, you can mash it with a hand masher, use a hand blender, throw it in a standing blender, or put it in a food processor. I personally use my Vitamix as it makes the pumpkin puree incredibly smooth and silky.
If you have a dish you plan to use it in soon, it will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. But pumpkin freezes very well too and will last a year.
And that about covers it!
If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #sustainablesauceresses!
Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!
How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree
- Half Sheet Baking Tray or Ginormous Roasting Dish with Lid
- Chef's Knife
- 1 pie pumpkin
- Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 C.
- Wash and scrub pumpkin.
- With a large chef's knife, cut the pumpkin in half.
- Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and any stringy bits (if desired).
- Lay the pumpkin flat side down on the baking tray or casserole dish.
- Pour a thin layer of water around the pumpkin.
- Cover the tray or dish with foil or a lid.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the outer skin can very easily be pierced with a fork.
- Let cool to touch and scoop the pumpkin out into a large bowl or standup blender.
- Blend until smooth and transfer to sealed containers. Will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for a year.
Did you give this recipe a try?