Pumpkin and other winter squashes are so delicious, and up here in the northeast part of the U.S. they offer a comforting flavor and scent that defines fall and winter. At least at our house.
We grow pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, for eating, decorating, carving, and posting up in the farm stand. We also source from a couple of other farms to flesh out the variety and volume. While some pumpkins are not all that suitable for eating, like the jack-o-lantern types, many are perfect for pureeing and freezing for a bomb pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread, or this amazing winter squash soup in the dead of winter.
Not just for Sugar Pumpkins
Varieties like the basic sugar pumpkin, which are small, usually round, and fit comfortably on a sheet pan are the go-to’s for an afternoon of roasting and putting up for the winter.
Other winter squashes that are ideal for pureeing are fancier, and sometimes quite large, like bright red-orange Cinderellas, silvery-green Jarrahdales, dark green then burnt sienna Musquee de Provence, Kabocha, and Red Kuri. You can include Butternuts in the puree category, too, and indeed many cans of pumpkin you find at the grocery store are in fact Butternut and not sugar pumpkin.
Once you get past the chopping in half part of those larger gourds, its all the same for roasting them up and whizzing them smooth in a blender.
You could eat a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin if you had to, but their flesh is far stringier and won’t result in the smooth creamy puree you want for recipes. Let those jacks go to the compost pile, or semi cook them to make the flesh soft enough to please backyard chickens. My pigs love them – especially the seeds.
Freezing vs. Canning
Why freeze instead of can? Canning pumpkin puree is best left to the commercial pros. In fact, the canning authority known as Ball, doesn’t promote any canning recipes for puree. Besides, frozen puree or even chopped squash is so much easier to stock up on without all the water bath mumbo jumbo. Yes, some folks say chopped raw pumpkin can be processed in a pressure cooker (not water bath), but it is ill advised because the ph levels are a total guessing game. Even the Ball website stresses to not mash or puree when canning pumpkin.