Last week I shared my favorite use for pumpkins, especially those large enough for decorating or carving: They likely have stringy, inedible flesh, but their seeds are delicious when spiced and roasted. Smaller sugar or pie pumpkins and other winter squash have both seeds and flesh worthy of roasting.
Home-roasted pumpkin puree has far more flavor than store-bought cans, but it also holds far more water. I counter this by draining the puree before I pour it into a pie shell, bake it into cookies or stuff it into ravioli. To create enough thick, home-roasted puree for most recipes, I start with about five pounds of whole sugar pumpkin or other winter squash and let it drain in the refrigerator overnight.
This time of year, I start roasting sugar pumpkins and freezing the puree so that I’m prepared to put homemade pie filling into a scratch-made crust, recipes I’ll share in the coming weeks so that you’re set to present a homemade pumpkin pie at a Thanksgiving gathering. If you freeze the puree, you can let it drain again as it defrosts for bonus thickness. You can instead roast the pumpkin a few days ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.
I roast and puree other winter squash in the same way: acorn, buttercup, butternut, delicata, Hubbard and other varieties can be substituted for sugar pumpkins in any recipe, even pie. The baking time varies depending on the squash’s size and density, so I always check it partway through roasting.
Roasted Winter Squash Puree
Makes about 2 cups
5 pounds whole sugar pumpkin or other winter squash
Slice the stem and blossom ends off the winter squash, and then set the squash on the now-flat bottom and cut down one side from top to bottom, slicing deeply enough to split the flesh but not damage the seeds. Repeat the cut on the other side to separate the squash halves. Scoop out and compost the stringy center, as well as the end cuts; the seeds can be set aside for roasting (see last week’s recipe).
Place the squash halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 60 minutes. Pierce through the skin into the flesh with a fork; if the flesh is still firm, continue roasting for another 30 minutes, until the flesh is soft when pierced. Remove the pan from the oven and let the squash halves sit until they are cool enough to handle.
Scoop the cooled squash flesh into a bowl or food processor, composting the skins. Puree the flesh with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the puree into a large-holed colander set over a bowl to drain; cover with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Once drained, use the fresh puree immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to three days. For longer storage, freeze in a 2-1/2-cup container.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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