“How to cook pumpkin?” you ask. If you have ever tried to make pumpkin pie out of last week’s jack-o-lantern, then you have already discovered that roasted and pureed pumpkin is not the same as the canned pumpkin you grab at the market.
Here’s the deal. Those large, showing pumpkins are full of water. Yes, you can cook up the flesh, make soup, breads, and cookies. But if you want to make pie or any other recipe that calls for canned pumpkin, then you must get rid of a large amount of liquid. (Note the picture with the whole collapsed pumpkin after baking.)
Turning the pumpkin into puree and allowing a lot of the liquid to drain off is one key strategy. This is how you do it:
(Read our more thorough discussion of baking pumpkin for puree.)
To avoid all the draining trouble described above, start with a pie pumpkin, also called sugar pumpkins. These darlings are considerably smaller than the showy big ones that sit on doorsteps in the fall. The meat of the pumpkin is dry, dense, and higher in sugar. This is what you really want to make into a pie!
To replace a recipe calling for canned pumpkin with pumpkin puree from a fresh sugar pumpkin, place the puree in a colander and allow it to drip for about thirty minutes.
You can also use any winter squash, often with even better flavor. Pumpkin and winter squash are in the same family, tightly knit cousins. In some cultures where these vegetables have been mainstays, you will find winter squash being used where the label on the final product is “pumpkin.” Pumpkin empanadas are a good example of this. Take a bite out of one of these Mexican pastries and you will swear it is pumpkin. In all likelihood it is from a Hubbard squash: dark yellow, dense flesh, very sweet…a perfect “pumpkin” puree.
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