Now that Halloween is over, we can all concentrate on the next holiday in the lineup: Thanksgiving. The following day after Halloween, I saw an onslaught of Christmas stuff everywhere. Ads are already popping up on TV, big toy books from Target and Toys R Us have landed at my door, and the seasonal aisle in my local drugstore is decked out in red, white, and green. Honestly, I’m not ready for this Christmas explosion! People are getting too ahead of themselves in preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year, but let’s concentrate on turkey day.
I love the hype around Thanksgiving, even if it is a small amount. The hype I do hear, is all about the food and the preparations behind them. Planning a meal worthy of this holiday takes a lot of time; there’s invites, place settings, decorations, and of course, the menu. Most people start prepping and planning as early as possible, even as soon as the beginning of the month. One of the biggest items on the list what can be prepared in advanced and how far in advance can it be prepared. Instead of relying on a last minute purchase of canned pumpkin, why not make it yourself this year?
Homemade pumpkin puree is a seriously easy process that can be done well in advanced, and can get you more bang for your buck. I used Ree’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) instructions as a guide. First, buy yourself a sugar pumpkin. I got my medium sized pumpkin at my local farmer’s market for $2. Make sure it is a sugar pumpkin and not a pumpkin used for carving or decoration!
Now that the pumpkin has been acquired, it’s time to get to work. Preheat your oven at 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Grab your cutting board and a large knife. If your pumpkin has a little dirt, you can wash it off but don’t worry too much about it because we’re going to peel it later anyway.
Grab your knife and carefully slice the pumpkin into two halves. What I should’ve done here was cut the stem off, but I didn’t. You should cut the stem off first; it’ll make cutting it in two a lot easier. Now that your pumpkin is halved, use a large spoon to remove all the pumpkin guts and seeds. Save this stuff! We’re going to harvest the seeds to roast later.
At this point, your pumpkin should be rid of it’s innards. You can also cut the pumpkin into quarters for easier roasting (you may need another baking sheet, if you do). Put the pumpkin halves face down on the prepped sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s done when a fork can easily slide into the pumpkin.
While the pumpkin’s baking, sift through the guts for all the seeds! This is slightly tedious but pepitas are awesome, so get your hands dirty! After getting all the seeds, give them a rinse. Gently dry them with a paper towel before drizzling in a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Spread your seeds out on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. I’d say give them about 10-12 minutes, but please watch them so they don’t burn! Once cooled, you should have a lovely, and delicious snack!
After checking your pumpkin for doneness (with the fork, remember?), remove from the oven and let cool.
While that’s cooling, let’s talk pumpkin pie spice. A lot of people serve pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, deliciously so, and one of the main ingredients besides the pumpkin is it’s signature spice. This is the stuff that drives people nuts during the fall, mostly in those pumpkin spice latte things from coffee chains. What most don’t realize is that this signature spice mix is simply a combination of things you probably already have in your pantry! Instead of shelling out close to $8 for a tiny bottle, a quick Google search, led me to this recipe from Joy the Baker.
Pumpkin pie spice is basically a mix of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger (and cardamom, if you got it). This is as easy as measuring out the spices, and mixing it in an empty spice jar. All you need is 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of each: ground cloves, ground allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. Joy also adds a big pinch of cardamom (or mace), add it in if you have it. Pop all these in the empty spice jar and give it a healthy shake. Make sure all the spices are incorporated, and you’ve got pumpkin pie spice! So easy, and so affordable!
Now that we have pumpkin pie spice and pepitas, let’s get back to the pumpkin. Grab your knife and cut your halves into quarters (if you haven’t already). Gently slide the knife under the pumpkin’s soft and tender skin. Cut your peeled pumpkin into chunks, and discard the skins.
And now, we puree. Place your chunks in the food processor and puree until the chunks resemble baby food. Periodically, scrape the sides down with a spatula. This may take several batches, depending on the size of your food processor. I have a mini prep, so mine took forever. When all of the chunks have been pureed, you’re done! Bask in the pumpkin-y glory you have now created! At this point, you can store it in jars, containers, tupperware, plastic bags, whatever you have that has a lid and can be frozen or refrigerated. This golden stuff should last a few weeks in the fridge, months if you freeze it. But we all know that if there’s pumpkin in the house, pumpkin things will be made! Just make sure to save some for your Thanksgiving pie!
Pumpkin Puree tutorial – slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Pumpkin Pie Spice – adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes about 2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Blend all of the spices together, making sure to work through any lumps. Store in an old spice jar.