Homemade Pumpkin Puree

This summer I set quite the goal for myself and I’ve followed through on pretty much everything I wanted to try and some stuff I didn’t know I wanted to try!  I do think I’m done canning and freezing stuff for this winter tho, mostly because I’m getting swamped with school work and trying to make sure I have “me” time.  I’ve got a lot of food put away and I honestly doubt I’ll eat it all before next summer, although I hope I get close so I can make some room for next years canning because otherwise I need to move to have more cupboard space.

The key to making good pumpkin puree is to buy Sugar or Pie Pumpkins.  They’re quite a bit smaller then jack-o-lantern pumpkins, usually about 3-5 lbs is a good size.  You want them this size for a few reasons, the first one is that fitting a 20-30lb pumpkin in your oven is going to be a challenge, and we don’t want a challenge.  Another important reason is because the bigger the pumpkin, the more stringy and tough the pumpkin flesh. 

I’ve realized while writing this, that this isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a process but I’m ok with that, it really is easy.  Preheat your oven to 350 C.  The most difficult part is the first bit.  You need to cut your pumpkin into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.  You can save the seeds for roasting, but I got frustrated with trying to separate them from the stringy stuff and gave up after about 20 minutes.  Patience I do not have. 

Once you have some nice cleaned pumpkin halves or quarters, place them cut side down in a roasting dish or 9×13″ pan and put about 1″ of water in the bottom.  Roast in the oven until the pumpkin is discoloured and you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.  Let pumpkin cool till you can handle it, then scoop the pumpkin meat into a bowl.

Once you have all your pumpkin meat in a bowl, process it in your food processor (or high powered blender…or regular blender in very small batches) till smooth.  The smoother the better, it will end up looking a lot more like bought canned pumpkin if it’s smooth.  Your pumpkin will be a lot more yellow-orange then canned pumpkin, so don’t think it’s wrong if it looks different!  Once all your pumpkin is nice and smooth, you want to line a collander with cheesecloth and put all your puree in there.  Place the collander in a larger bown to catch the liquid and let it sit, in the fridge, for at least 24 hours. 

Keeping it in the fridge is VERY IMPORTANT so nasty bacterias don’t grow on your pumpkin!  Letting it sit is also rather important, especially if you want your pumpkin to act like canned pumpkin from the store later on.  Normally the pumpkin you buy in cans is “solid pack” pumpkin.  A lot of the moisture has been removed from it, making it more solid.  You’ll probably get quite a bit of pumpkin juice out of your pumpkin, but the overall volume doesn’t decrease that much. 

Once your pumpkin has drained, portion it into ziploc freezer bags, about 2 cups per bag is good and store in the freezer.  Letting them freeze flat works best for easy storage.  Pumpkin will keep about 6-8 months in the freezer, maybe up to a year.  I had 6 Pie pumpkins that I purchased from a local farmer.  I paid about $18 for them and got approximately 20 cups of pumpkin puree from them.  It’s much, much cheaper and most of the prep is waiting! 

I ❤ pumpkin.

Seven Grain Bread

About a year ago my mom gave me her old black and decker bread machine when I expressed interest in buying one.  I used it till the motor died this summer, making about 1 loaf a week plus pizza dough and sometimes bun dough.  With the bread machine came the original users manual/recipe book, which has a lot more recipes then the manual that came with my new bread machine does.  One of the recipes in there has become my staple sandwich bread and I still make about 1 2lb loaf a week.  I do adjust the recipe a bit, because I never buy powdered milk as the original recipe calls for and just use soymilk in place of the water.  I have also made it with 100% whole wheat, but it’s a much denser loaf and doesn’t rise as much. 

Seven Grain Bread

1 2/3 cup soymilk (heated for about 45 seconds till room temp)

2 tbsp shortening (I’ve tried both oil or margarine, both work fine)

2 tbsp honey

2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup seven grain cereal (I use 8 or 12 grain from bulk barn)

1 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1. Warm the soymilk in the microwave till room temperature.  Measure ingredients in the order listed, except the pumpkin and sesame seeds, into the baking pan of your bread machine. 

2. Insert baking pan into your bread machine, select whole wheat cycle and adjust your crust settings as per your preference.  Press start.  When the add ingredients signal beeps, add the pumpkin and sesame seeds.  Take out of the bread machine when completion beeps sound.  Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

I slice the bread and lay the slices on a sheet pan, saran wrap in between the layers, allowing them to freeze individually before putting into a bag.  Makes it easier to take individual slices out later for sandwiches or toast!

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Raspberry Vinaigrette

I’ve been so busy with school and work I’ve barely been cooking, let alone making anything worth posting about.  The most I’ve done on the weekends is bake bread, make applesauce, apple butter, and pumpkin puree.  I did pickle some hot peppers and have a bunch of little hot pepper plants growing like weeds under my grow light.  My rosemary is finally growing thanks to a friend’s organic fertilizer (thanks Claude!) and both lemon trees are doing well, although one of them is no longer a resident of my apartment.  I am trying to sprout some apple seeds currently and would totally plant a pumpkin seed when I puree the last 3 pumpkins I have if I wasn’t terrified of it taking over my livingroom.

On non-food related news, I have a real livingroom now!  Claude and Dallas were generous and wonderful enough to give me their entertainment unit and were at my place for about 2 hours on Monday evening helping me move everything around.  My computer desk is now in my bedroom and then tv, ps3 and ps2 are all in the livingroom on the entertainment unit.  I can now look for a coffee table and end tables!  So excited! 

Back to food…I have been searching for months for a salad dressing I love that I can make at home.  I finally found it this weekend.  I made a homemade raspberry vinaigrette for our thanksgiving supper and I adore it.  I’ve never liked storebought raspberry vinaigrettes before so it was surprising.  It’s simple to make and I have all the ingredients at home, amazingly.  It keeps well in the fridge, and just needs a shake or whisk to put it back together for serving. 

Raspberry Vinaigrette

2 tbsp homemade raspberry sauce (basically try to make raspberry jam but don’t add enough sugar or pectin for it to set, lol)

1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp White Vinegar

1/8 cup Olive Oil

1/8 cup Canola Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Wisk the raspberry sauce and vinegars together.  Slowly drizzle in the oils, whisking constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stores well in the fridge, just shake or whisk before serving.