First off, what follows involves no canning and no pumpkins. I just wanted to clear that up.
So many autumnal recipes call for “a can of pumpkin,” and while that’s all well and good, what if you’re interested in using an actual squash? How exactly do you get from large hard object to creamy puree? Here’s the scoop…
Start with a squash not a pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are often lacking in flavor, and Jack-O-Lanterns are completely tasteless, so just throw those in your compost after carving. Choose a large flavorful squash like a kabocha, ambercup, buttercup, hubbard, or sweet meat.
Cut it in half. This may be more difficult than it sounds. My mom insisted that if I wrote a blog post about cooking squash, I am required to share her squash-cracking method. I’m not totally sold on it, but this is what she does.
She gets out a big, clean screwdriver, positions it on the edge of the squash, and whacks it with a hammer to make the first split.
She then takes a big knife and finishes the cut around the equator.
Scrape out the seeds. (Yes, I’m using two different squashes in this demo.)
I cook squash in cast iron pans with a little water in the bottom in the barbecue. “Normal” people who actually have ovens in their homes can use a similar method for baking in the kitchen. My mom prefers to steam large chunks of squash in a great big pot.
Whichever method you choose, cook your squash until you can easily poke through it with a fork.
Scrape the flesh out of the skin and scoop it into a food processor with a splash of water. The water from steaming works well for this if that’s how you cooked your squash. Process the squash mixture until smooth, adding more water as needed to get things going.
This puree can be used fresh, or it freezes beautifully. It helps to freeze your squash puree in two-cup containers because many recipes call for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. You’ll also need to thaw your homemade “canned pumpkin” before use.
Making your own “canned pumpkin” will taste way better than the store-bought stuff. It will also help you use up the bounty of your own garden, or you can support a local farmer by purchasing a squash.