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North Carolina, United States

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Pumpkin Time

Fall is here and that means it's pumpkin time! At our house that means pumpkin pie, pumpkin-raisin muffins, and pumpkin-apple soup, among other things. My family, especially my husband and son-in-law, are pumpkin freaks, so, needless to say, we go through a lot of pumpkin around here. As you can probably guess, I usually have several cans of puree in the cupboard at all times.

However, in spite of the fact that I am surrounded by pumpkin maniacs, I have never tried to make my own pumpkin puree before. It just seemed like too much trouble, and I was not convinced that it would taste any better than the stuff in a can I have used for years. Added to that (confession time) was the fact that I was not really sure how to cook the pumpkin! But a funny thing happened last week; a foodie friend and colleague posted an article about making her own puree and it was like a light went on for me (thanks Anne!). Not only did she make it look easy, she made it look delicious and her puree was beautiful! I was hooked! I decided I had to try it for myself! So, this past weekend, I bought a pumpkin and went to work.

This is Anne's method for making pumpkin puree:
  • The first step is to pick a small pumpkin. "Sugar pumpkins" or pumpkins marked for pie work best. The giant pumpkins are not good for pie because they have stringy, bland insides and their flesh is not nearly as firm. You want to choose one that is 2 to 3 pounds with less-pronounced grooves and skin with a dull appearance.
  • Once you get your pumpkin home, wash and dry it thoroughly. Next, cut it in half vertically through the stem end, and remove the seeds and stringy pulp. Note: roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious, so don't throw them away!
  • Lay the pumpkin, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin yields to slight pressure. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 20 minutes.
  • Once your pumpkin is cooled, scoop the flesh from inside the shell with a spoon, and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Store puree in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Use within 3 or 4 days if refrigerated, or within 6 months if frozen.
  • Use your puree as you would the canned variety. Note: My 2 lb. pumpkin made about 2 cups of puree.

Here is one of our favorite pumpkin recipes, Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins, from Country Cupboard restaurant in Lewisburg, PA. They bring you a basket of these warm from the oven when you dine there, and I have to say that the first time I tasted one, I though I had died and gone to heaven! I can't think of a better use for homemade pumpkin puree than these fragrant, spicy muffins!

Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins

2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups four
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins, tossed in 1 tbsp. flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, water and oil on low speed about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except raisins. Mix well on low speed. Scrape bowl and continue mixing on medium speed about 2-3 minutes. Stir in raisins. Fill paper-lined muffin tins 1/2-3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 23-28 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and a pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.
Note: If you want your muffins to peak, bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

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Chow and Chatter said...

oh this sounds divine, love pumpkins and its such a big thing in the states will follow Penny, lol Rebecca

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"In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom."

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