I’m putting this out there because we all have left over pumpkins that we haven’t used from Halloween. You know the ones, the uncarved ones that we never got around to doing anything with other than just making lawn ornaments out of. Not to mention, my friend Olga said to me a couple weeks ago, “I’ve never roasted a pumpkin.” So, today, on one of my lazy days, I’m going to show you one way to roast a whole pumpkin. That’s right! You don’t have to use the little pie pumpkins from the store which are ridiculously expensive and yield just enough pumpkin for one recipe which fills two pie shells. You can roast a whole pumpkin, blend it all up and freeze it and save whatever you’re not using right this minute for future pumpkin breads, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pies or whatever it is you want to use pumpkin for!
This technique is going to be just roasting the whole pumpkin. No cutting it up, no slicing off wedges. Jack-o-lantern sized pumpkins are tough to cut. Why risk losing some fingers when you can cook it and it will practically cut itself up for you?
First thing we do is pull any stickers off the pumpkin, and by stickers, I mean the ones the stores put on them for price tags. After that, put your pumpkin in the sink and scrub it all nice and clean. Don’t cook a dirty pumpkin because you risk contaminating your cooked product with whatever is on the outside of the pumpkin. Imagine how many hands have touched the pumpkin, what’s been on it, or anything else just… gross and germ infested has happened to it! This pumpkin is going to be your food so, wash it well. I always tell people to do this before you cut up watermelons and cantaloupe or anything of that nature. Hundreds of people have touched that food product while making their store selections, so scrub it off. I use a little dawn dish soap, since it’s non toxic, and I scrub scrub, scrub.
After your pumpkin is washed, I stab some holes in it using a steak knife. This allows steam to leave the pumpkin so we don’t have pumpkin explosion. I stab four or five in the top, then I go around the outside wall of the pumpkin. I think I stabbed 4-6 in the outside wall. Don’t get too overzealous because as your pumpkin cooks, it’s going to soften up, and be hard to handle if you’ve compromised the pumpkin wall too many times.
Then, we put the pumpkin on a cookie sheet or in a glass dish and we’re going to place it on the bottom rack of the oven, heated at 400 degrees. (Notice, I didn’t do this because I’ve never had issues getting it out of the oven with some hot mitts, not to mention my cookie sheets are a little flimsy so I’d risk dropping it more than someone who has a nice sturdy cookie sheet!)
Close the door up and let it bake. All pumpkins take different times, simply because they all have different ‘wall thickness’. But, I start by leaving mine in for 45 minutes and then I’ll check it. Usually when it’s getting nice and soft, the top will start to cave in because of the holes I poked. Feel free to get a fork and poke your pumpkin on the side. We want it soft like any squash we’d cook, be it spaghetti squash, or yellow squash. If it’s still not soft on the sides, put it back in another 15 minutes.
After the pumpkin is done, we’re going to remove it from the oven and let it sit about 20 minutes. This is just so we don’t have a pumpkin that is so hot to handle that we burn our little fingers off dismantling it. After the pumpkin has cooled some, I cut the top off. Work slowly, since again, we’re compromising the pumpkin wall and once the top comes off, the other parts might just fall open, so be sure you have plenty of counter space and you don’t have any little kiddo’s standing around waiting to see you murder their jack-o-lantern. The insides are still going to be quite toasty and could burn their hands. Now that the top is off, let your pumpkin sit until its cool.
Once cool, the insides should scrape out really easily and the skin is super simple to peel off as well. So now we dismantle the pumpkin. I like to cut mine into wedges now and scrape off the seeds, saving those for later for roasting, then I peel off the skin and I cut the pumpkin into cubes.
There will be a part of the pumpkin, where it was sitting on the cookie sheet that is darker and even burnt looking, but trust me, this is not burnt pumpkin! This is roasted and the part that has the most flavor. Don’t throw it away, just cube it up with the rest of the pumpkin.
I’m just going to throw it all in a bowl for now. After the pumpkin is dismantled and the peeled cubes of cooked pumpkin have been sat aside, we’re going to blend it. You can use a food processor for this or, if you’re lucky like me, use your Ninja blender! I’m not certain if it’s because I am using a blender instead of a food processor, but I added a little water as I blended up my pumpkin so it would all get incorporated. Don’t be scared to add water to it if you need to, just do it a little at a time. Remember, we can add more but taking away is harder.
This pumpkin puree will be more loose than the stuff you see crammed in cans. Not to mention it won’t be brown or neon orange usually. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t expect it to look like the over processed stuff in cans. There might even be a little standing liquid on the top of it once it settles in the bowl. This is normal. The reason I put all the puree in the bowl is because I had to do three different batches of puree since my blender can only hold so much. Because we did three batches, some batches will have more roasted portions of pumpkin than other, so I put it all in one bowl and stirred it up, that way the flavor is evenly distributed.
Now, we just put what we don’t want to use of the pureed pumping into freezer bags, get out as much air as we can, and then we freeze it. I recommend using quart bags, and freezing it in 2 Cup measurements. Put it in the bag, flatten the bag so it defrosts easier, and freeze it. It takes 2 cups of pumpkin puree to make one pie. When you buy the canned pumpkin, the regular size cans, it makes one pie, but when you buy the big can and it tells you hey, you can make two pies with this, it’s really only about 3 1/2 cups of pumpkin, so you don’t get quite as much delicious pumpkin by using those big cans. you’re actually short 1/2 a cup of pumpkin. This one normal sized Halloween pumpkin made about 24 cups of puree.
In the future, when you’re ready to use your puree, it’s all pre-measured and just needs to sit out to defrost. I don’t recommend microwaving it as you’re just kinda cooking it again. Let it defrost naturally on the kitchen counter or even transferring it from freezer to fridge 2 days before.