In Season: Pumpkin
I don't think I have to tell anyone that it's pumpkin season. Canned pumpkin is easy to use and available year round, but fresh pumpkin is worth the extra prep for real pumpkin flavor.
The best varieties for cooking are small pie or "sugar" pumpkins and typically weigh between four and ten pounds. Choose smaller pumpkins for cooking as they tend to be sweeter and more tender. Never cook a pumpkin that's been carved as it'll be host to a wealth of bacteria.
A 5-pound pumpkin will yield about 4 1/2 cups of mashed or pureed, cooked pumpkin. One can of pumpkin, 15 to 16 ounces, yields about 2 cups of mashed or pureed pumpkin. Cooked pumpkin will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in the freezer.
How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin Puree
1. Wash the pumpkin. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Save the seeds for roasting.
2. Place the cut sides down on a baking sheet and bake at 350° until soft, about 45 minutes to one hour.
3. After the pumpkin is cool, scoop it out of the skin and puree it in a food processor or blender until it is smooth.
Optional: If you plan to use the pumpkin puree as a canned pumpkin substitute, you may want to strain the puree. Line a strainer cheesecloth. Spoon the cooked pumpkin into the lined strainer. Put the strainer in a glass pie plate or large bowl to catch the drained liquid. Let it drain in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.