Making your pumpkin pies from fresh pumpkins is much easier than many people believe. With very little work, you can stock your freezer with containers or freezer bags of fresh pumpkin to use in your holiday baking.
The best type of pumpkins for making pies are the small compact size pie pumpkins found in the grocery store or a local pumpkin patch. Pie pumpkins are much smaller than the jack-o-lantern varieties. The average size of a pie pumpkin is anywhere from 8 inches diameter to the size of a soccer ball. They have a sweeter flavor and unlike the larger pumpkins, these have a very thick flesh and small seed cavity. The flesh of a pie pumpkin is an orange color verses the often pale yellow shades of the larger pumpkins.
To cook the pumpkin, I cut the pumpkin in half. Using a spoon, you scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers. Next, I place the pumpkin into a roasting pan with about a 1/2 inch of water in the pan. Cover the roasting pan with foil or a lid, then bake at 350°F for about 1½ hours or until it is very soft. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow to cool. Once the pumpkin has cooled enough to handle easily, scoop the pulp from the pumpkin being careful to not take any of the outer rind. Place the pulp into a bowl. Allow to stand for a few minutes to allow any water in the pulp to drain out. Pour off the water before blending. Using a hand mixer, blend the pulp into a smooth puree. You could also use the best juicer to extract the juice.
When freezing my pumpkin, I prefer to freeze it in the amounts needed for my recipes. Most will ask for 2 cups of pumpkin. I measure the pumpkin, placing 2 cups per freezer bag. To save on freezer space and to help reduce thawing time, I try to remove as much excess air from the bags as possible before sealing,. Label the bags or containers with the date and measurement of pumpkin it contains. Lay the bags flat in the freezer so the pumpkin can evenly distribute through the bag.
Fresh pumpkin puree can be used in place of the solid pack pumpkin. In addition to your holiday pie baking, you can use the fresh cooked pumpkin to make soups, breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies. Once you start using fresh pumpkin, you may never want to go back to the store bought cans of pumpkin. Fresh cooked pumpkin has a wonderful flavor that the commercially canned pumpkins cannot duplicate.
When cooking pumpkins, if you are using an organically grown pumpkin, save some seeds. Place them on a plate or towel and allow to dry completely. Store in a paper envelope to use for planting in your own garden! Imagine a child’s delight in growing their own pumpkins to use in the holiday pies!
Cooking fresh pumpkin for your holiday baking is fun and very easy to do. The resulting pumpkin puree will be a great addition to your pantry. The pumpkin is a very versatile ingredient as it can be used in so many different recipes. I encourage you to give it a try.
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