Every Thanksgiving long weekend we join my mother-in-law’s side of the family (all 30-50 of them!) in Pembroke, ON for a massive outdoor turkey dinner. The kids run wild in the bush, we light a big bonfire and most importantly, we feast. One of the things we all look forward to most are my husband’s aunt Paula’s pumpkin pies.
Generally, I’m not much for pumpkin pie. I find it gelatinous, overly sweet and too heavy on the pumpkin spice in most cases, but Paula’s pies are special. She makes them from whole sugar pumpkins she scoops out, roasts and purees herself so they taste naturally sweet and rich. With just enough spice to warm the mouth and compliment the earthy roasted pumpkin. It gave me hope that I might someday get into the whole pumpkin dessert thing. I hate being left out of the feasting.
I’ve been grabbing up as many sugar pumpkins as I can when I see them at the market and roasting them whole, pureeing up the flesh (or just mashing it really well) and freezing for use through the winter/summer. It’s flavourful and has such a pure pumpkin flavour that tastes amazing in both sweet and savory dishes. Some of my recent favs for using the puree are:
And before you toss out all those nutritious seeds studded through the flesh, keep in mind they are hella good for you and make a pretty tasty snack. A quarter cup of seeds has 25% of your daily iron intake, and roughly 20% of your daily protein. They are an excellent source of manganese, magnesium and tryptophan, and a good source of phosphorus, copper, and protein. Sure, adding oil and salt may make them slightly less nutritious, but they still beat a bag of chips or crackers any day. Our recipe below fires on all cylinders – they are crunchy, sweet, salty, smoky and just a wee bit spicy. Eating just one is nearly impossible. If you’re planning to make a pie or something else that calls for pumpkin puree this harvest season, do yourself a favour and try roasting your own pumpkins. It takes a little more time, but I promise it’s time well spent.
Smooth, naturally sweet and fiber-rich pumpkin puree.
1 2-4lb pie/sugar pumpkin
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper*
Preheat oven to 400.
Using a large, sharp knife, (carefully!) cut your pumpkin in half lengthwise.
Scoop the seeds and flesh out of the pumpkin and into a bowl, to be dealt with later.
Rub each half of the pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet cut side down.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until flesh is easily scooped out into a bowl. If it’s tough to scoop, let it cook for another 10 minutes and try again.
Let it cool and then puree or mash really well.
If using within a week, place in a sealed jar in the fridge. Otherwise freeze flat in zip bags or in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.
If you’re planning to use the pumpkin puree for a sweet recipe, omit the ground pepper.
Flesh and seeds from 1 sugar pumpkin (approx 1/2-3/4 cup seeds)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp neutral flavoured oil (avocado, vegetable, etc)
Preparing the Seeds
Removing the seeds from the flesh is pretty simple once you get going. I first remove the big chunks of pumpkin flesh and then I use my fingers to sort of “comb” the seeds out. This is a fun job for kids if you have any that are interest in helping.
Once you’ve got all the seeds out, place them in a sieve and run them under lukewarm water to clean all the goo off them. Shake as much water out as you can and pour them onto a towel-lined plate to dry overnight.
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
Pour dried seeds onto the baking sheet and toss with the rest of the ingredients.
Bake, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown. 15-20 minutes.
If you’re not sure if they’re done, let one cool for a minute and give it a taste. It should be crunchy with a slight chew. If they aren’t crunchy, cook for another few minutes.
Let the seeds cool and store in an air-tight container for up to 4 days (though I’m fairly certain they won’t last that long)
One roasted sugar pumpkin yeilds between 1/2 – 3/4 cups of seeds depending on size. Mine yielded just over a half cup, so these measurements are base on that.