But seriously, pumpkin and other orange squash like hubbard or butternut taste great in everything from soups to breads to cheesecake…and of course, pumpkin pie. Now is the time of year to buy those lovely little pumpkins or other squashes and prepare them for all those other recipes. Here’s what you do!
First, find a big strong knife to cut the thing in half. I used to always use my chef’s knife for this, but this cleaver sure made it a lot easier! You can empty out the inside with a spoon, reserving the seeds in a bowl and composting the mushy stuff. Rinse the seeds a few times to remove traces of the squash, and drain in a colander. (We’ll come back to these!)
Place the cleaned halves facing down on a roasting pan or cookie sheet with high edges. Pour about a quarter cup of water or so on the sheet. The water is just to keep the squash from sticking to the pan, and helps to steam it a bit. Put your pan of squash in a preheated 375 degree oven, and leave it for about an hour. Check on it at the 45 minute mark – depending on the size and tenderness of your squash, it could be close to done – but if you have a tough one, it may only be halfway there. You should also check to see if the bottom of the squash is sticking to the pan – if it is, you may want to add some more water to your pan.
The squash is done when you can peel the thinnest layer of peel away from the flesh, as shown in the photo to your left. It kind of puffs away from the flesh – you can kind of tell when it’s at this stage because it kind of bounces back if you poke it. Set aside the squash to cool a bit.
Now! Find your seeds! The ones in the colander! Sprinkle some sea salt and a bit of oil on them (and any other spices you like… celery salt, garlic powder, chili powder, Italian herb seasoning…) Give them a swirl to distribute the spices, and lay them out on a new cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they’re brown and fragrant. When they’re done, let them cool off and store in a plastic container or mason jar.
Once your seeds are in the oven, come back to your now-cooled-off-a-bit squash. Remove the peel and place the flesh in a large bowl and puree it with a stick blender. Or stick it in your food processor or blender. You may have to add a bit of water to make it blend nicely, particularly with butternut or hubbard squash, which seem to be a bit denser than pumpkin.
And there you have it! Lovely roasted pumpkin puree, ready to use!
I feel as though after all of this buildup, I should really give you a pumpkin pie recipe. Truth is – I don’t really have one. I kind of make it up every year.
Instead, here’s the recipe I make all winter long with my puree – Nutty Pumpkin Bread, adapted from Simply In Season, one of my favourite seasonal cookbooks. I love this recipe so much I freeze my puree in 2 1/2 cup portions in ziploc bags so it’s ready to make.
Nutty Pumpkin Bread
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 C bran
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, cloves (optional).
Mix together and make a well.
2 1/2 C pumpkin
4 eggs (slightly beaten)
1/2 C oil
1/2 C pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1 C dried cranberries (chopped, optional).
Add to the well and mix until just moistened. Pour into 2 greased 9×5 inch loaf pans and bake at 350F until toothpick inserted in center of loaves comes out clean, 50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen edges and turn the loaf out onto the rack to cool completely before slicing.
Yours in food,