I have had people say that you HAVE to use canned pumpkin to make a good pumpkin pie. Poppycock! (There’s a word I don’t use often…but I try to keep the blog clean.) What you need is pumpkin puree that isn’t too watery. At the start, let me just state that this process takes awhile, but it is very easy and you get a LOT of pumpkin puree! You can use the small “Pie Pumpkins”, but there’s nothing wrong with a regular pumpkin. In fact, for this blog, I used our Halloween Jack O’Lantern! It wasn’t out for too long and it didn’t get burned by the candle or covered in wax, so I decided to put it in the refrigerator overnight and use it. Basically, the pumpkin should be baked, rather than boiled, to avoid adding water to the pulp. Then it needs to be pureed, to eliminate any stringy texture, and simmered to evaporate more water. This can be done on the stove or in a Crock Pot (depending on how much time you have and how much attention you can devote to supervising the process). So, you only need a couple of cups of puree for a pie or pumpkin bread and my average sized, grocery store pumpkin gave me enough puree to fill a 5 qt. Crock Pot, before simmering down, so this should last me through the holidays!
Since I am into canning, it is with some disappointment that I find that pumpkin puree is not safe for home canning…even pressure canning. The only safe method is to can pumpkin chunks in a pressure canner and I believe that will produce a product that is too watery for baking, unless you go through the rest of the process I’m doing here anyway. So, I’m going to put my pumpkin in jars anyway, because I have some extras, but I’m going to vacuum seal some and refrigerate them for baking in the near future (more on that soon!) and then freeze the rest. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make a pie with fresh pumpkin puree. You just hand them a slice and tell them, “Enjoy!”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break down pumpkin and reserve seeds for roasting (see previous post), trim inner sides of pumpkin pieces and place inner side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.
Bake for 45 minutes or until tender all the way through. Test with a knife or fork.
Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove pulp from skin either by scooping with a spoon or peeling with a knife.
Discard skins and process pulp in batches through a food processor to break up any stringy texture, until smooth. You may further process the the pulp through a strainer or food mill, if desired. (I ran mine through a china cap strainer with a wooden pestle.)
Transfer pulp to a large sauce pan or a Crock Pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until puree is the desired consistency. I used a Crock Pot on “High” for about 4 hours, until the puree was fairly thick and no longer watery.
Cool the puree and either freeze in freezer zippered bags or airtight containers or refrigerate and use within a couple of days. Enjoy!