The pumpkin is undoubtedly one of the most beloved edibles of the fall. Used in a variety of recipes, both savory and sweet, pumpkins are a versatile vegetable that lend rich flavor to recipes for soups, pasta dishes, muffins, cakes, pies and more.
Pumpkins are a healthy ingredient too, as they're a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and potassium.
How To Shop For Fresh Pumpkins
If you live in cooler climates, October is a great month to visit pumpkin patches and pick out pumpkins to cook with or carve for
Halloween. You'll want to avoid cooking with the very large jack-o-lantern variety though – they're a bit too stringy and give off too much water.
Smaller pumpkin varieties are more tender and flavorful, so those are the ones you want to choose for cooking. Choose blemish-free pumpkins that feel rather heavy for their size.
Whole pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks, and in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months.
How To Make Your Own Fresh Pumpkin Purée
It's simple to prepare fresh pumpkin for purée. Just cut the pumpkin into wedges and remove the seeds and fibers.
Place the wedges in a roasting pan with a little water, cover with foil and roast at 400°F until the flesh is very tender – about one hour.
Once cooled, it's easy to peel off the skin and puree the flesh in a food processor.
Yield: A 2-1/2 to 3-pound pumpkin will yield between 1-1/2 to 2 cups of purée.
Storage: Pumpkin purée can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen in an airtight container for up to 10 months.
Using Store-Bought Pumpkin Purée
If you're not up for tackling a fresh pumpkin, don't hesitate to use store-bought – it's a big time saver.
Our favorite brand is from Farmer's Market Foods in Oregon. Their Organic Pumpkin Purée is packed in both BPA-free cans and aseptic cartons and is available in supermarkets across the country. We've used it for several years now and found it to be a consistently great product.
Tip: You can also successfully substitute butternut squash for pumpkin in many savory dishes.