Anyone who knows me well knows that I love autumn. It's my favorite season. I think its roots are in the fact that I'm from Alaska, where fall lasts all of about 2-3 weeks, and there is really only one kind of deciduous tree (birch), so all the leaves on trees in Alaska turn pretty much the exact same color. It's pretty, really it is.
Fall in Alaska: a photo I took when we hiked Skyline last September.
When I experienced my first real fall at the age of 17 and a freshman in college, autumn officially became my favorite season. The University of Idaho has a gorgeous campus. There are probably a hundred different kinds of trees on the campus: maple, oak, birch, willow, and so on. It was so different than any autumn I'd ever experienced before. For the first time in my life I understood the purpose of leaf bags and I was amazed at the creativity of God when he designed so many gorgeous, vibrant colors of tree leaves.
U of I's "Hello Walk", leading up to the Administration building. photo credit
Anyways. All that to say I love fall. And if you'll remember from this post, when I think of fall, I think of pumpkin.
Oh, how I love the pumpkin.
Soon after arriving in Poland on All Saints' Day of 2002, everyone was deciding what they'd bring to our group Thanksgiving feast. I volunteered to bring pumpkin pies with little thought to the fact that I'd only ever made a pumpkin pie by using a can of Libby's, and I hadn't brought any with me. Fortunately I'm pretty smart (or so I like to think). I was able to find a pumpkin with little trouble. And I was able to turn that beauty of a jack-o-lantern into purée. Here's how:
Let's assume that you begin with something that looks like this:
A large slice o' pumpkin.
You'll want to do this to it:
Clean that sucker out! Save the seeds for roasting, if you like: they're full of vitamins! (I eat them, even though I don't like them, because I know they're good for me.)
Turn that baby upside down onto a baking sheet or broiler pan covered in foil (it makes clean-up a lot easier).
Now cover that bad boy in foil (unless you had a whole pumpkin and just cut it in half: then you don't need the foil, just put the cut side down on the foil).
The foil traps the heat and the moisture inside, effectively baking the pumpkin.
Put it in the oven and bake at 350° or 400° for a couple of hours, or until the pumpkin starts to do this:
The flesh of the pumpkin is falling away from the skin. If you're baking pumpkin halves and can't see if it's doing this, prick the flesh with a fork. It should be very soft.
Let the pumpkin cool for a bit, maybe an hour. Then scrape all of the orange flesh out.
Mmm, pumpkin carcass.
It's done! Put all your pumpkin purée in a bowl and refrigerate! You can freeze it in portions the perfect size for your recipes. A can of Libby's is almost two cups and is the amount called for in most pumpkin pie recipes. A cup is just the right amount for these delicious cookies. And if you want to freeze some in ice cube trays, you could use them to make homemade pumpkin spice coffee creamer.
The final result.
I am so glad that I learned how to do this almost eight years ago. It has freed me from feeling like I need to have those 14-ounce cans of pumpkin in my pantry in order to enjoy the holiday season. While in the U.S. I gladly use canned pumpkin because let's face it, it's a lot less work! But this is really, really simple to do, as long as you can find a pumpkin! If your purée turns out a little stringy, use it in bread or muffins, because the strings dissolve and you can't tell at all (some people can tell when you use stringy purée in pies...I am not one of them). And then bake the pumpkin longer the next time.
Tomorrow I'm going to try out that recipe for homemade coffee creamer. And later this week I'm going to buy some more pumpkin to roast so that I can make some pumpkin bread...
Oh, how I love the pumpkin...
It might not compare to my love for the pumpkin, but what do you think about my new blog layout? Spiffy, huh?