By now you’ve heard/read/absorbed-by-osmosis that the miniature sugar pumpkin, not the behemoth “jack-o-lantern” pumpkin, is the pumpkin to use for making pie…that is, if you’re not opening a can of pumpkin puree.
These dinky “pie” pumpkins are about the size of a small cantaloupe (only more squat) and weigh roughly two pounds, give or take a few ounces.
My “demo” sugar pumpkin is 2-1/4 pounds. Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes later (and a little elbow grease), I have almost 2 cups of roasted, pureed pulp…not to mention almost 3/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds. For comparison, it’s about the same amount of puree in a 15-ounce can. Except, alas, with canned pumpkin, there are no bonus pumpkin seeds.
The skin of a sugar pumpkin is extremely hard, which is why some people tend to forgo cutting it altogether and roast it whole.
I cut them because I want to harvest the seeds to toast later for a snack. And, I have nightmares that the darn thing will explode in the oven, forcing me to spend the rest of the evening cleaning up the mess while my sister puts on glass slippers and flits off with my Prince Charming.
It takes careful knife work to cut one of these babies in half. It’s much easier to carve a pumpkin for Halloween.
I use a sturdy chef’s knife (one with a pointy end, not a santuko) and I don’t get in a hurry. First I cut the stem off. Then I stick the pointy end of the knife in the top and push down, repeating several times to make a larger and larger slit. With some brute force, the knife eventually works through the flesh, perhaps even causing the pumpkin to crack, making it easier to rock the knife back and forth.
[FINE PRINT: For goodness sakes, be careful if you decide to cut up your pie pumpkin. The knife could slip and hurt somebody — proceed at your own risk.]
If you have any reservations at all, have your Prince Charming do the cutting part.
Once I’ve cut the pumpkin in half, I cut each half in two. It’s much easier to scrape out the seeds from quarters.
Later, while the pumpkin is roasting, I put the harvested seeds in a large bowl of water and start squishing the pulp to release the seeds. The pulp will sink to the bottom and the seeds will float.
It will take a couple changes of water to get the seeds completely clean. They’re slippery little suckers.
(By the way, Jess Thompson, a poignant food writer, has a lovely post about harvesting the seeds with a recipe for spiced pumpkin seeds.)
Place the cleaned pumpkin quarters on a lined baking sheet. I brush them with a little olive oil so they don’t dry out too much, but if you’re oil-adverse, skip it and just brush them with some water.
Place the baking sheet in a preheated 400º F. oven and roast until tender, about 35-40 minutes.
Once the pumpkin is fork tender, remove and cool. Then scrap out the pulp.
It will look a little stringy. (Hey, even Cinderella needed a fairy godmother.)
The last step is to puree the pumpkin in a food processor. This, too, will take a little effort. Lots of starting and stopping, and in between, lots of plunging the pumpkin back down into the blades.
You know, Thomas Edison said “There is no substitute for hard work.”
Um, yes there is. It’s called canned pumpkin.
Roasted Pumpkin Puree
Makes 3-1/2 to 4 cups puree
2 sugar pumpkins (4-1/2 to 5 pounds total)
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1. Heat oven to 400º F.
2. Cut the pumpkins in half and cut each half in two, for a total of four wedges.
3. Scrape out the seeds (save and clean for toasting later).
4. Place the pumpkin quarters on a lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil (or water).
5. Place in the oven and roast until fork tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
6. Scrape flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, stopping frequently to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the pumpkin flesh is mostly smooth.
NOTE: Pumpkin puree will keep for 4 days, covered and refrigerated, or freeze for up to 1 month.