Pumkin pie is one of my family’s favorites around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Several years ago I began looking for a way to make my own pumpkin puree, which you can read about here. This method is outlined in this article, and I’ve prepared a video that goes along with these instructions to better help you see the process before you begin – plus it includes the directions and visuals for making deep-dish pumpkin pies from the puree. It’s well worth taking a look at before you begin.
The Pumpkin to Puree Process
Start with two pumpkins, about 3 pounds each. Thoroughly wash the outsides of each. With a large sharp knife, split each pumpkin down the middle. Using a large spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and pith of the pumpkin. Do not scrape too far into the flesh of the pumpkin.
Place the halves of the pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with foil so that the skin side is facing up. Place pumpkin halves into a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes then rotate the cookie sheets from one shelf to another to allow even cooking. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until a butter knife can be inserted through the skin with no effort at all. Remove pumpkin halves from the oven and allow to cool part way – approximately 20 minutes.
Once partially cooled, place pumpkin halves on a cutting board and begin to scoop out all of the flesh. You will see dark spots around the rim of the pumpkin. This is OKAY! It’s the sugars that have caramelized. Be sure to include this part!
Place the flesh into a bowl and allow to cool further. There will be a lot of juice which needs to be kept in the bowl.
While the pumpkin cools, prepare your cheesecloth and colander set-up. Cut cheesecloth into strips of approximately 18 inches.
Place a large colander into a pot or deep bowl. Open each cheesecloth strip to its full spread, then refold it in half to form a double-layered sheet. Place over the colander. Place the second cheesecloth sheet over the first, but with the corners positioned in-between those of the first sheet.
Take the cooled pumpkin and place spoonfuls into a blender until it’s filled about 2/3 full.
NOTE: DO NOT use hot pumpkin – it may explode from the pressure of the blender!
Set the blender to Puree or blend until the pumpkin looks like baby food.
Pour the pumpkin puree into the cheesecloth that has been placed over the colander. Find the opposite corners of the top-most layer of cheesecloth and tie them together in a knot, pulling as tightly as possible. If pumpkin squeezes out of the other part, that’s okay. Take the opposite corners and tie them tightly over the first knot.
Next, take the two opposite corners of the bottom layer of cheesecloth and repeat the process. Take the final two corners and tie tightly. You will probably have some pumpkin that’s escaped the cheesecloth at this point. Don’t worry!
Remove the pumpkin, put one more layer of cheesecloth (folded as before) in the colander and flip the ball of pumpkin in knot-side down. Again, tie off the corners as before, pulling as tightly as you can.
Juice should be running down from the colander by now. Pour this out then place heavy plates on top to press down more. Let the pumpkin sit and drain in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
After several hours of draining and pressing, the pumpkin should look something like a tight ball in the cheesecloth.
Carefully cut the cheesecloth near the knots and remove the pumpkin to a clean bowl.
You now have fresh, homemade pumpkin puree that can be used to make pies, cakes, muffins, and even cookies.
Be sure to click here for my Best Ever New England Deep-Dish Pumpkin Pie recipe.