Smaller pie or sweet pumpkins (the size of a baseball or melon) are recommended for pies, but the large Jack-o-lantern pumpkins also serve well. Adding water and a little brown sugar to the inside of the Jack-o-lanterns before baking adds to the sweetness and texture and prevents it from becoming stringy or dry.
There are two ways to prepare the pumpkin – the hard way and the easy way. I recommend the easy way.
THE HARD WAY
1. Carefully remove the top of the pumpkin with a large knife.
2. Scoop out all the slimy strings and seeds. Save the seeds for a delicious and healthy snack, if desired.
3. Cut the pumpkin into slices, then remove the rind.
4. Chunk the pumpkin meat into cubes and boil in water until softened (about 30-45 minutes, depending on the amount and the size of the pot).
THE EASY WAY
After removing the strings and seeds, put the whole pumpkin into a large baking pan. Add a small amount of water to the pan and about 1/8 inch of water inside the pumpkin. Bake the pumpkin 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees (or until a fork can easily go into the pumpkin).
Whether cooking pumpkin chunks until soft, or using baked pumpkin, it should be pureed to a smooth consistency for pie or other pumpkin recipes. It is best to puree the pumpkin
rather than mash it. It is alright to let the pumpkin cool before pureeing it.
1. Scoop the pumpkin out of the baked shell.
2. Put a few chunks at a time into a food processor or blender, adding a small amount of water.
3. Strain the pumpkin puree through cheesecloth or sieve a few hours. This will keep your pies from being watery.
The pumpkin is now ready to either be canned or frozen. However, the USDA does not recommend canning mashed or pureed pumpkin. Pumpkin puree is too dense for the heat to reach the center while processing which renders the product unsafe. Only cubed pumpkin should be canned as it is a low-acid food. The cubed pumpkin should be pressure-cooked for at least 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure if canned. The older open-kettle method is hazardous and can lead to botulism. (USDA Complete Guide to Canning).
I recommend the freezing method. It can be stored flat in the freezer, saving room. Ladle 1-2 cups of pumpkin into freezer bags or containers and freeze! A recipe generally calls for 1-2 cups. Pre-measured bags makes recipes easier to fix.
If desired, add sugar and spices to make the pumpkin puree into “pumpkin pie filling”, making baking even faster. When ready to make the pie, simply add the eggs and cream. Put the pumpkin puree in large enough pot to cook down on low temperature. Better yet, put in your crock pot and let it cook for 6-8 hours. Makes the house smell wonderful! Pumpkin puree is great for pumpkin roll, cookies, cakes, bars and even soup!
Pumpkin Filling for One Pie
*Note – this be a light tan in color rather than an orangey-tan like the store-bought canned pumpkin.
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. allspice
4 cups sugar
(Note: 3 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice can be substituted for the spices, but doesn’t have the same flavor. Multiply the above ingredients by the number of cups of puree).