How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins

Whether you want to make your own pie from scratch, save some money, or use up an abundant harvest, knowing how to cook and use pie pumpkins is a great skill to have. I’ve used field pumpkins, winter squash, and pie pumpkins to make homemade ‘pumpkin’ puree…and you can too! It’s not hard to do and you can save some cash with the following instructions.

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For more information, check out my article How to Harvest and Store Pumpkins and Winter Squash.

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins

Selecting Your Pumpkin or Squash

I like pie pumpkins and winter squashes (with deep orange flesh) best for making ‘pumpkin’ puree. You may use field (Jack-o-lantern) pumpkins for cooking, too. They are stringy in texture and contain more moisture than pie pumpkins, but they  most certainly are edible. You might pick them up for free after Halloween, so why not give them a try?

Here are some of the best tasting heirloom pumpkin varieties for cooking:

 

How to Cook and Use a Pie Pumpkin
Musquee De Provence is an heirloom pumpkin that is very decorative and tastes great.

Heirloom squash varieties that work well for ‘pumpkin’ puree:

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Butternut squash makes good ‘pumpkin’ puree.

 

Check your pumpkin or squash for any mold or bad spots. If there is a bit of mold on the outside, you should be able to remove the affected area. However, if you open the pumpkin and there is mold in the seed cavity, compost it and start with a fresh one.

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Getting pumpkins and squash ready to bake. After cutting them in half, scoop out the seeds. Save them for toasting, planting next year, or feeding to your chickens or pigs.

How to Cook Your Pumpkin for DIY Puree

There’s more than one way to cook your pumpkin and make homemade puree. Here are the basics of each method…

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Pie pumpkins and Butternut squash ready to go in the oven.

Baking

  • Cut pumpkins in half
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Pour a small amount of water in baking pans (about 1/2″ deep)
  • Place pumpkins in baking pans, facing down
  • Bake in 350 F oven until tender (about an hour)

Boiling

  • Cut pumpkins in half
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Cut into chunks
  • Peel skin
  • Place in pot on medium burner and cook until tender
  • Drain off water in colander

Microwaving

  • Cut pumpkins in half
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Cut into chunks
  • Place in microwavable container with small amount of water
  • Microwave on high until tender
  • Cool and drain off water in colander
  • Scoop flesh from skin with spoon

Slow Cooking

  • Cut pumpkins in half
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Cut into chunks (optional)
  • Place in slow cooker with a cup of water
  • Cook until tender
  • Cool and drain off water in colander
  • Scoop flesh from skin with spoon

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Pie pumpkins and Butternut squash, cooked and ready to puree. (Do you see my helpers? They’re guarding the door to make sure no one steals my pumpkins!)

How to Puree Your Pumpkin

Once the pumpkins are fully cooked, cooled, and drained of excess water, you’re ready to scoop the flesh from the skin (if you haven’t already) and puree it. There’s more than one way puree your pumpkin, too!

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Cooked and mashed pumpkin may be eaten like winter squash or pureed for pies, muffins, and quick breads.

Food Processor or Blender

Place the cooked pumpkin in your food processor or blender and puree it until smooth. The consistency of cooked pumpkin may be too thick for some blenders.

Food Mill aka Foley Mill

I have a food mill that I’ve used for pumpkin in the past, but it was quite a bit of work and didn’t remove as much of the pulp. Run the pumpkin flesh through the food mill, stopping occasionally to scrape the stringy stuff from the inside of the food mill and discard.

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
The Victorio Food Strainer makes quick work of pureeing pumpkins. It also removes the stringy parts for a very smooth puree.

Food Strainer

This year I used my Victorio Food Strainer and I was very happy with the results.

Place a bowl under the spout where the puree feeds out, and another bowl under the end of the tube to catch the stringy pulp.

Place the cooked pumpkin into the funnel and turn the hand crank, using the ‘plunger’ to feed the pumpkin down into the auger. If you are pureeing a lot of pumpkins, you may need to scrape out the sieve and auger components of the food strainer once or twice to keep the puree flowing.

 

Use a Sieve

If you are making a small amount of puree, you can mash the cooked pumpkin through a sieve. I used this method for one pie pumpkin this fall and it worked well, but this takes more effort and time than the food strainer for a large batch.

Place pumpkin into sieve. Using a spoon, press mashed pumpkin through sieve into a bowl. Discard the stringy pulp that is left in the sieve.


How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Your homemade pumpkin puree will make the tastiest pumpkin pies!

Use or Freeze Your Pumpkin Puree

If your pumpkin puree is watery, place it in a strainer and allow to drain. Refrigerate while it drains if this will take very long.

Use the puree in place of canned pumpkin in any recipe.

Freezing Pumpkin Puree

Measure into 1 or 2 cup increments, pack pumpkin puree into BPA free freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Label container with contents and date, and use in 6 months to one year.


Canning Pumpkin

It is not recommended that you can pumpkin puree. The variation in puree consistency makes it too difficult to ensure proper temperature is reached in the center of the jar.  For more information, refer to The Center for Home Food Preservation page here.

How to Safely Can Pumpkin and Squash:

  • Cut pumpkin or squash in half
  • Remove seeds and peel to remove skin
  • Cube flesh into 1″ chunks
  • Cook 2 minutes in boiling water
  • Place cooked pumpkin or squash cubes in canning jars (do not mash!)
  • Fill jars with hot liquid from cooking pumpkin
  • Place sterile lids on jars and screw on rings until finger tight
  • Process jars of pumpkin or winter squash in pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure (15 pounds for elevations over 1,000 ft) for 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts (Processing time starts once canner reaches proper pressure.)
  • To use, drain liquid from jars before pureeing pumpkin for recipes
How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Can you save some cash by making your own pumpkin puree?

Saving Money with Pie Pumpkins and Winter Squashes

If you really want to save some cash on your pumpkin pies, try growing your own pumpkins and/or winter squashes. This year I grew 2 varieties of pie pumpkin and 3 varieties of winter squash. The cost of seeds came to approximately $15 (if you count the cost of the entire package of seeds – although each packet contained enough to plant for several years). From this, I harvested 26 pumpkins and 37 squashes. That’s a lot of food for $15!

Each pie pumpkin provided about 3 cups of puree. If I really wanted to puree all of my pumpkins, I could put up to 78 cups of pumpkin puree in the freezer for the winter!  (I don’t have room for that much pumpkin in my freezer, it’s full of turkeys.)

To purchase that much pumpkin puree from the grocery store would run at least $78, depending on sale prices. I’d say I got my money’s worth from my pumpkin patch this year. 🙂

If you need to purchase your pie pumpkins to make puree, wait until after Halloween when pumpkins go on sale, or check at local pumpkin patches and farm stands. Next year, plant your own!

 

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Roast some pumpkin or winter squash seeds for a healthy snack.

What Else can You do with Your Pumpkins and Winter Squash?

Can’t eat that much pie? Here are some other ways to use your harvest:

  • Decorate for autumn
  • Roast the seeds for snacks
  • Use as livestock feed for poultry, pigs, goats, and cattle
  • Sell extras at your own roadside stand
  • Barter for other goods or share with friends and family
  • Save the seeds for next year’s garden
  • Bake pumpkins and winter squash for a nutritious vegetable
  • Make pumpkin cheesecake, pancakes, muffins, cakes, breads, and pumpkin butter
  • Use with rice and chicken broth to make your own dog food
  • Make pumpkin soup, stuffed pumpkin, or other savory dishes

 

How to cook and use a pie pumpkin

Cooking and Using Your Own Pumpkin Isn’t Hard!

DIY pumpkin puree might take some time, but it really isn’t difficult to do. You don’t necessarily need a food processor or expensive kitchen gadget to puree your pumpkin. The flavor is delicious, one small pumpkin should make 1 or 2 pies, and you’ll have some tasty roasted seeds to munch on when you’re done.

Use whatever pumpkin or winter squash you have on hand to make a variety of savory and sweet dishes that your family will enjoy this fall!


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