Get the Most Out of Your Gourd

Fall is finally here! Even in the concrete jungle where the forecast still says 97 degrees, it’s time to celebrate! This Saturday at the market, Downtown Phoenix can enjoy a celebration of all things Autumn as we cozy up into a new season. At the market, there will be a costume contest, pumpkin carving station, Open Air scavenger hunt, pumpkin displays for adorable photo-ops, and pumpkin patches with a variety of Phoenix-grown pumpkins to take home. Of course, shoppers can also pick up fall flavors at almost every vendor booth, as well as market-roasted chiles for what bubbles in the cauldron at home.

All this fun begs the question: once the great pumpkin is chosen and does its decorative duty at the doorstep–what’s next? Cut it open and roast the seeds, leaving the body for compost? Use it as a doorstop in the home and see how long it lasts before rotting from the inside out? Find the local trebuchet and see how far it’ll go? Maybe we can suggest something better:

homemade pumpkin puree!

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Here is your step-by-step guide to breaking down, roasting, and pureeing a beautiful local pumpkin into something delicious (and nutritious)! The seeds inside become an addictive snack–now, that’s something you don’t get with a store-bought can of puree!

Step one: Find a sugar pumpkin that suits your needs.

Sugar pumpkins are typically smaller and have more meat on them, packing in flavor and keepin’ it cute. For this recipe, we’re using two 5 pounders: one for experimentation and one to keep simple and pure.

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Step two: Break the pumpkin down into four sections and deal with those seeds. 

You’ll want to start by chopping off the stem. This makes cutting the rest into quarters a lot easier as it can be stabilized on either end. Scrape out the seeds and fibrous threads. A grapefruit spoon makes that easy. Place the sections on a baking sheet, skin side down. No need for oil or butter since we want a pure product that is simply cooked throughout.

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As for the seeds, an easy way to get them separated from the fibers is to place them in a standing mixer with a whisk attachment and about a cup of water. Whisk on a low speed until you can sort of see the separation. The fibers will bunch up and cling to the tip of the whisk, allowing you to simply pour the water and seeds into a colander. Drain, sprinkle with spices and a little bit of oil and/or honey on a baking sheet, and roast in the last 20 minutes of your cook time. You’ll want to keep a close eye on these guys since they can burn in a moment; it’s also a good idea to stir them around often throughout roasting. Finish with more honey and a sprinkle of brown sugar for an addictive snack. We used finely chopped rosemary, garlic, ginger, and sun-dried tomatoes with flaky sea salt and cayenne-infused honey. Finished off with a teaspoon of brown sugar–delicious! Our pumpkin yielded about a half cup of these bad boys.

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Step three: Roast pumpkins at 375 degrees for about 60 minutes, or until fork-tender.

The pumpkins should be soft enough to easily put a fork through after about an hour. Once that is accomplished, the skins will simply come away from the meat and can be discarded (or used as a perfect compost starter if you don’t already have a compost pile). Allow the pieces to cool completely. Soak in that harvest-season smell.

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Experiment! Roast your pumpkin with a sachet of herbs. Simply place herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme in a small baking dish with a drizzle of oil and a splash of water (to prevent burning). Maybe add some fresh ginger root. The aromatics will gently influence the flavor of the pumpkin (and make your home smell amazing). You could also sprinkle the pumpkin with salt, cardamom, and coriander to enhance the flavor of the pumpkin without obscuring its purity too much.

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Step four: Whirr it up!

Place the pumpkin meat in a food processor. You may want to work in batches and add a splash of water to make sure it gets evenly pureed–we want this to be as smooth as you might find it in a can. Alternatively, you could use a blender, an immersion blender, a ricer, or simply a bowl and potato masher. You could even have the kids reach in and break it apart by hand to get things started.

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Step five: Use it up or store it away.

One of our five-pound pumpkins yielded about one and a quarter cup of puree–plenty for most baking recipes. Use mason jars to keep the product in the refrigerator for one week, or fill up zip-lock bags to keep in the freezer for up to two months. Some of our favorite pumpkin recipes are Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Bread, Joy the Baker’s Butterscotch Pumpkin Cookies, and Coley Cooks’ Savory Brown-Butter Pumpkin Galette

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We hope to see you this Saturday, October 28th, for our big Pumpkin Party. If you decide to try making your own puree, tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #phxpublicmarket/@phxpublicmarket!

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