Many pumpkin recipes call for puree, so it is quite useful to know how to make one…especially if you would like to stay away from that canned stuff! Fortunately, there are two standard methods that are simple and work well. The point of making a puree is to soften the flesh and eliminate the water content, which concentrates the flavor. This is how you can develop the naturally-occurring sweetness of a pumpkin. Both methods presented below will work for any recipe. The taste difference is noticeable. Roasted pumpkin purée has a richer flavor that highlights the nuttiness of the pumpkin. Steamed pumpkin purée should be clean tasting and approaching the flavor of the pumpkin in its raw state. My preference is the steamed method because it is quicker…
Boiling/Steaming Method: Begin by cutting the pumpkin into 2-cm cubes. There is no need to be precise about the size – a simple rough chop will do. Place the cubes into a large and wide pot that has a tight-fitting cover. Add a good pinch of salt (and 1-2 tablespoons of sugar if you want a sweet puree). Now, go ahead and add 50-100 ml. of water, turn the heat to medium-high, cover the pot and set your timer for about 8 minutes (add a bit of water if the pumpkin seems dry at any point during the cooking process). The pumpkin purée is finished when it can be easily smashed with a fork. Drain the purée well, making sure to save all the liquid. At this point, I like to blend the cooked pumpkin in my high-speed blender to create a very smooth texture. Of course, you can also accomplish the same by using a food processor. So, what am I doing with the reserved liquid? Well, there is a lot of flavor in that liquid, and I hate throwing out flavor (go ahead and taste some…go on, I will wait…delicious, right?). Ok, let’s make it a bit more delicious by placing all the liquid back into the pot and reducing it quickly over high heat – perhaps with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Voila – you just made a delicious pumpkin syrup that is fabulous over pancakes!
Roasting: Just like the previous example of steaming the pumpkin, the key with this method is to cook the pumpkin until it is very soft and the juices have concentrated. Begin by cutting the pumpkin in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and lightly salt the flesh. Place the pumpkin halves in a roasting pan just large enough to hold them, and make sure the cut side is facing down (and yes, you can use a baking tray for this job – just line it first with some baking paper). Preheat your oven to 200° C (with fan if you have one). Bake the pumpkin for 40-60 minutes (depending on variety and size of the pumpkin). Try to get the pumpkin very soft. You should be able to easily pierce the skin with a dull knife. Cool the pumpkin slightly, then remove the flesh by scraping it out with a spoon. Puree the pumpkin as before – either with a high-speed blender or food processor.
Jack’s Fresh Tip
I like to use smaller pumpkins to make purées because they have smaller quantities of water. Asian-style pumpkins are dry and quite sweet. Their flavors are interesting and like sweet potatoes, chestnuts or just plain potatoes. If you don’t know what pumpkin to choose, then default to a ripe butternut squash. These are usually good for any sweet or savory recipe. One final word about yield. Most pumpkins have an actual yield of roughly 40%, meaning you will need a 1 kilo pumpkin to produce 400 grams of purée.