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.

On Jack-o-lanterns

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.

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

  • Fresh whole pumpkins (Sugar Pie, Cinderella, or other roasting pumpkins). If they have been sitting outside as decor, that’s fine, just make sure they are clean and free of splits, gouges, and mold. Once you cut it open, look for the same. If its not totally clean inside, offer it to the compost pile.

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400F
  • Wash your pumpkins and carefully cut them in half.
  • Scoop out the guts and seeds, saving the seeds to roast separately if desired
  • Sprinkle the exposed flesh with a pinch of salt
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set the pumpkin halves face down (skin side up) on the sheet.
  • Use a sharp knife to carefully stab the back skin side of each pumpkin in a few places to allow steam to get in between the flesh and skin. This will also make it easier to remove the skin once the roasting is complete
  • Roast the halves at 400F for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, until they are tender when poked with a fork. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor.
  • Blend until silky smooth.
  • If not using the puree immediately, refrigerate or freeze the puree. Use within one week when stored in the refrigerator. Pumpkin puree is good for up to a year in the freezer, though the texture and quality will be best if used within a few months.
  • If freezing, portion out the puree in amounts you’d likely use for baking for super easy future use, or just fill some pint jars with plastic lids. Use freezer-safe wide-mouth glass jars, pint size or smaller, and leave at least a half inch of head space.
  • Date and label the containers and pop them into the freezer.
  • Thaw in the fridge a day or two before you want to use it.