Puree Button

“Puree, a 13th-century Ancient French term for refined or purified, is a culinary process of mashing, blending, or grinding an ingredient until it has a soft, creamy consistency.”

Much to my sadness and chagrin, I do not own a food processor of decent size. I have a small one-cup blender that while good for making guacamole, is not handy for large quantities of ingredients. While my blender has a puree button, it is close to useless unless what I’m pureeing has a lot of liquid in it. If I intend to puree a vegetable such as squash or pumpkin, I have to resort to another method that involves a tired arm and a spoon- or if I’m really desperate, my hand mixer- because also to my chagrin, I don’t own a potato masher. Hopefully, this will be my last entry about all things pumpkin. I’ve established that it is a very versatile gourd and while I love it, I’m sick to death of it. Over the Hallo-weekend, the SO and I did three things with pumpkins: carved them, made puree, and roasted seeds.

Firstly, awesome pumpkin carving.

Puss-in-Boots from Shrek and King Boo from Super Mario Brothers.

Secondly, pumpkin puree.

Pie pumpkins are cute. They’re cheap and make good decorations, and apparently, they’re different from the regular carving pumpkins. We got ours from the local pumpkin patch- which I didn’t think there was a pumpkin patch within a thousand miles of here- and they sat on our porch contentedly serving as decoration until the time came for them to serve their primary purpose. I was inspired from a recipe in Men’s Health magazine and altered it.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut open the pumpkin and take out the seeds and stringy stuff. Save the seeds to roast later. Cut the pumpkin into wedges and put on a baking sheet or a roasting pan. Bake the pumpkin for 30 minutes, then check it every 10 minutes or so for doneness. I eventually cooked mine for almost 2 hours. Pumpkin can be deceptive; you might poke it with a fork at the end of a wedge and it feels done but if you poke it in the middle, it isn’t. It will feel like a potato when cooked through.

Once you have cooked pumpkin, cover it with tin foil and let it completely cool. In my case, I was doing this late at night and let it cool overnight until the next afternoon. When you are ready to puree, get yourself a metal spoon.

Peel the flesh from the skin into either a large mixing bowl (if you’re going to use a hand mixer or potato masher) or the bowl of a food processor and mix until the pumpkin has a smooth and creamy texture.

My two pie pumpkins yielded about 5 cups of puree. I froze 2-cup portions in quart size bags and plan to use it for pie and soup.

Thirdly, roasted seeds.

Prior to this experiment, I’d made roasted pumpkin seeds exactly once. They turned out leathery and not very salty, and they still had bits of pumpkin guts clinging to them so they weren’t exactly appetizing. My SO loves pumpkin seeds and I couldn’t very well waste four pumpkins’ worth of seeds, so I set out to make them more like what you’d find in a store. In my googling, I found recommendations of boiling the seeds in salted water before roasting them, and as I’ve made brined food before, it made sense.

I soaked the seeds in the sink to remove the bits and pieces of pumpkin guts, then put them in boiling salted water in my stockpot. I eyeballed the salt; I’d say I used a gallon of water and about 1/4-1/3 cup of kosher salt. I boiled the seeds for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly with a skimmer which helped me take out any remaining pieces of pumpkin. After straining them and drying them for a little bit on paper towel, I put them on a cookie sheet and drizzled them with olive oil.

Here’s where it gets dicey. Google recipe results varied on temperature and baking time. Most said to bake around 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes, but some said for higher temperatures and less time. My aim was to dry out the seeds more than actually bake them; I figured it was the best way to get that crunchy consistency. My oven was set at 275 degrees and the seeds were put in for the long haul. I would stir them around every 10-15 minutes, and I think the total cooking time was around two hours. It’s a matter of knowing how crunchy you want the seeds, and you’re only going to find out by trying one every time you stir. After all the work, the two carving pumpkins made about 5 ounces of finished seeds. The SO made another batch when I made the pumpkin puree (mostly because I was so sick and tired of pumpkin) and he attempted a cinnamon honey roasted version. However, they didn’t quite turn out because he brined them like I did which made them much too salty for the sweetness of the honey to come through.

I’m glad we only carve pumpkins once a year because even though it was a lot of fun to begin with, by the time I got around to the fourth day of pumpkin-related activities, I wanted to stab my pumpkin until it was dead.

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