Channeling My Inner Trick-or-Treater

October 3, 2008

I might be a full-fledged grown up (I am finally done with school once and for all, I’m married, I have a mortgage, and this list goes on), but there’s something about the first few days of October—with their cool, crisp air and earthy aroma—that has me channeling my inner trick-or-treater.  Or, to be more accurate, my inner jack-o-latern artiste.  Carving pumpkins—-carefully selecting my gourd of choice at the pumpkin patch; rolling up my sleeves, reaching inside the deep pumpkin and scooping out the stringly middle; crafting a snaggle-toothed, triangle-eyed face on the slick orange skin; lighting a votive candle nestled inside the hollowed-out pumpkin, which promptly casts a flickery glow and warms the pumpkin’s flesh, emitting a scent that only exists in October—has always been my favorite part about Halloween.

As a kid, this autumnal ritual generally unfolded sometime during the week before the 31st, when our house was abuzz with other Halloween preparations: assembling costumes (often embarassing and always homemade); filling a behemoth, marigold-colored Tupperware with miniature candies; baking sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins, bats and witches’ hats.  Back then, the knife work—always performed with the biggest wooden-handled knife in our Chicago Cutlery knife block—was a strictly parental duty.  My sister and I stuck to scooping out the pumpkin seeds and outlining the faces with a thick black magic marker.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

As luck would have it, now that I’m old enough to wield a knife all by self, I live on the top floor of a four-floor walk-up.  Not only am I front stoop-less, but we get absolutely no foot traffic (in fact, we’ve practically lost a couple friends over the Everest-esque climb).  No trick-or-treaters.  No jack-o-laterns.  In short: no fun.

But, this year, I decided that—adulthood and condo-dwelling be damned—I would still carve a pumpkin!  And I even invented a halfway decent excuse.  For the last couple autumns, I have gone though can after can of pumpkin puree (I like the Whole Foods generic brand).  I figured that, this year, it would be fun to try a homemade version of  the same.

This ruse allowed me to relive one of my favorite childhood fall events and, even though there were no face-carvings and no flickery votive candles, it was still a good approximation. 

The process itself is easy enough: halve a sugar pumpkin, scrape out the insides with the edge of a spoon (save the seeds!) and roast until the pumpkin’s flesh yields to the touch.  Next, scrape out the softened flesh, puree and drain overnight. 

In the end, you’ll have a bowl full of lush, bright orange mounds of pureed pumpkin flesh.  And you know what that means, right?  Pumpkin baked goods galore!  Stay tuned (and feel free to chime in with ideas of your own!).

Pumpkin Puree
Martha Stewart Body + Soul

Yield: About 2 cups

1 sugar pumpkin (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Snap off the pumpkin’s stem and halve the gourd lengthwise. With a spoon or melon baller, remove seeds and rinse for roasting or discard.

Place pumpkin halves cut-side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 1 hour.

When cool enough to handle, scoop out cooked pumpkin flesh; discard skin. Transfer pumpkin flesh to a food processor; process until smooth.

Set a colander in a large bowl and line with a double-layer of cheesecloth. Place pumpkin puree in cheesecloth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to drain, at least 4 hours, and up to 3 days.

20 Responses to “Channeling My Inner Trick-or-Treater”

  1. Amanda Says:

    pumpkins could be my favorite things ever. round, little orange ballswith lumps all over. Plus, I love getting messy. I can’t till I get the pumpkin patch and pick out s couple. I want go all martha on them and stencil and decorate the crap out of them

  2. I love this pumpkin, so attractive and such a seducer indeed!

  3. Holly Says:

    I tried this several years ago and enjoyed the fruits of my labor for a long, long time. The one step my recipe omitted was to drain the puree. I always thought mine was far too watery. Oh well, I’ll know better for next time!

    I’m glad to see that there will be pumpkin recipes galore – I have sooo many cans of pumpkin puree that I need to use up. I gave loaves of pumpkin bread for Christmas last year and mistakenly bought much more than I needed of the main ingredient!

  4. Maggie Says:

    I make a ton of baked squash and pumpkin puree every fall. I freeze the extra in 2 cup portions. Then it’s ready to go all winter long.

  5. Moira Says:

    I love pumpkin puree, it’s perfect with roasted duck with orange sauce 😉

  6. redmenace Says:

    Lovely pictures. Make pumpkin pie! Or, pumpkin ravioli. Yum. Recently, I made a ravioli with acorn squash. I’m sure it would be fab with pumpkin!

  7. SeaBird Says:

    Can you tell much of a difference in taste between your homemade and the canned puree? I use canned to make the most delicious pumpkin bread (sometimes adding chocolate chips)! You can see it here:

  8. buruma Says:

    Healthy and full of Vitamin A

  9. jo Says:

    Yesterday for lunch my twin bubs had pureed pumpkin with rice and broccoli, and I had pumpkin soup (with chilli, cumin, coconut milk and coriander) – tasty! An interesting thing to note is that here in Australia I have never seen canned pumpkin (ever!), and the idea of buying something canned that is so simple to make has always seemed odd to me. Most kids here seem to grow up with pumpkin soup as a regular meal, always fresh but with many flavour variations.

  10. holler Says:

    I haven’t tried this before, but it is a really good idea!

  11. eggsonsunday Says:

    Pumpkins are my favorite part of fall, too — and I still carve jack-o-lanterns every year! I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to do that. 🙂 I like picking them out in the fields, where I always take pity on the oddly-formed ones…they have more character, I think. I also go through can after can of pumpkin puree in the fall and winter; can’t wait to see what goodies you come up with! –Amy

  12. heather Says:

    mmmm yummy! i love pumpkin! beautiful pics!

  13. Marilyn Says:

    Your pumpkin pictures jump off the page. Lovely!

  14. Amanda: Pumpkins, stencils and Martha? Sounds like a party to me.

    Big Boys Oven: Me too!

    Holly: I was surprised at how much mine drained, so yes I’d say that’s a step not to be skipped in the future. You know, once you work through all those cans. : )

    Maggie: My only regret about this project is that I only did one pumpkin. If you’re going to put in the time, I agree it’s wise to do a bunch of pumpkins and freeze the yield (great idea about storing in smaller portions, too).

    Moira: For some reason, I always think sweet, rather than savory. But that sounds lovely.

    redmenance: Mmm, pumpkin ravioli. Perhaps with some brown butter?

    SeaBird: For more on both difference and pumpkin bread, stay tuned later this week! But my short answer is that, no, I didn’t notice a big difference. And pumpkin bread: well, like I said, stay tuned!

    buruma: Can’t argue with that!

    jo: That’s very interesting! Here in the US, not only is canned pumpkin puree sold, but canned pumpkin pie filling is too. I am firmly opposed to the latter, for the record. Your soup sounds lovely!

    holler: Give it a try!

    Amy: You’re a kind soul, taking pity on the ugly ducklings. : )

    heather: Thanks!

    Marilyn: Thank you!

  15. Betsy Says:

    This is great – thanks for the step by step tutorial! I should be receiving pumpkins in my CSA soon and have never made my own puree, so your post came at a perfect time. Also, congrats on passing the bar exam!!!

  16. Robin Says:

    OoO – thanks for that photo-guide. I’ll be making pumpkin this weekend. Then maybe that pumpkin risotto with whipped cream from Susan at Food Blogga.

  17. Betsy: Go for it! (And thanks for the congrats.)

    Robin: Wow, that risotto sounds amazing. Just amazing.

  18. Dawn Says:

    Yum. Beautiful photos, as always. A few days ago we made sweet potato buckwheat pancakes for breakfast — I bet they would be even more delicious with fresh-baked pumpkin puree. Hmmm, something to try!

  19. Dawn: I was considering pumpkin pancakes! And buckwheat sounds like an interesting addition as well. Do you have a recipe?

  20. […] out the soft flesh, pureeing it and draining it in cheesecloth overnight (Kristin has a nice step-by-step pictorial post about making your own pumpkin puree.) If you don’t have a little pumpkin sitting around, […]

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