When you hear that there's a "canned pumpkin shortage," you likely picture desperate people (and yourself among them) running for the local grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, only to be left to find another dessert option. But how else can you make your famous pumpkin pie if not with canned pumpkin? But never fear-- you can easily whip up a pumpkin purée that's healthier and tastier than the canned stuff.
While it does look as though the nation's pumpkin crop is coming up lacking this year, with about one-third of what we can usually expect from the great pumpkin-producing state of Illinois, which typically grows 90 percent of the nation's pumpkins. But don't fret --it's actually super easy to make your own. To be honest, I've been doing it for years for a number of reasons.
First of all, we're all kind of avoiding canned foods anyway, right? Honestly, when was the last time you bought a can of beans? The same should hold true for pumpkin.
The second reason is that it's far easier to control the flavor of pumpkin purée you make yourself. For instance, I've started making my pumpkin pies not with pumpkin but with red kuri squash for the faint chestnut flavor it adds to the filling. But you could also make your purée with butternut squash or any other heirloom squash or pumpkin you like.
And lastly, it's just really easy. Almost too easy.
How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Purée
1 pumpkin or winter squash, whole
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scrub the pumpkin or winter squash well and dry with a dish towel. Place in the center of your oven, right on the rack. (You may want to place a cookie sheet underneath -- sometimes there's a bit of leakage.)
Bake 1-2 hours, depending on the size of your pumpkin or squash. What you're looking for is for a knife to easily go through the skin and into the center.
Once the pumpkin is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely. Halve the cooled pumpkin and remove the seeds, then peel off the cooked skin so you're left with pumpkin mash. Place the pumpkin mash in a pot and use a wooden spoon to completely mash it into a purée. Depending on the variety you used, you will have more or less water in your pumpkin, so cook it over low heat until it achieves the proper consistency. With something dense like a red kuri or butternut squash, I find the bake in the oven is more than enough to get the consistency I like, but with a pumpkin, especially a stringy one, it's nice to cook it a little bit, and sometimes I even blend it a bit with my immersion blender for a uniform consistency.
And that's it! You can now use your pumpkin purée for all your favorite sweet and savory pumpkin recipes, from soups to pastas to pies. The cooked pumpkin will keep in the fridge for 1 week, but you can also can it and store it now for Thanksgiving craziness later.
So whether pumpkin purée comes out on the shelves this November or not, don't worry; you're totally covered.
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Pumpkin purée image via Shutterstock