Fall means pumpkins. It also means Thanksgiving and other holiday delights. When the two are combined we have an opportunity to create one of the best meals we have all year. In preparation for our great holiday feasts, we go to the farmers’ market and get a load of sweet baking pumpkins. We compile our recipes for soup, breads and desserts. Then we invite 10 of our closest friends over to share a fabulous dinner in which every dish on the menu is made with fresh pumpkin puree.

Scooping out pumpkin

When making pumpkin puree, first scoop out the seed and stringy flesh.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Kneller

Slicing pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin into slices.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Kneller

Separating pumpkin flesh

After baking, separate the pumpkin flesh from its skin.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Kneller

Pumpkin (Cucurbita) can be substituted in recipes that call for winter squash or sweet potato, and many spices – including sage, nutmeg, curry, allspice, coriander, cinnamon and saffron – pair nicely with it. Making puree from this versatile fruit is pretty straightforward:

  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seed, as well as the sticky, stringy flesh that contains the seeds. Leave all the solid flesh attached to the skin.
  2. Cut the pumpkin into slices and put onto a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is soft. (Use a fork to check for tenderness.)
  3. Let cool, peel the softened flesh out of its skin, and puree the pumpkin in a food processor or with a mixer.

The puree should be used within two days, or it can be frozen for up to a month. Count on 1 pound of raw pumpkin to give you 1 cup of puree.

There are several pumpkin varieties out there that are great for cooking. Among the small Cucurbita pepo ones, ‘Baby Bear’ is a versatile cooking variety. ‘Small Sugar’ – also known as ‘New England Pie’ or ‘Sugar Pie’ – is a great pumpkin for sweet dishes, as is ‘Winter Luxury’.

Among the midsized pumpkins, Cucurbita pepo ‘Autumn Gold’ has earned high marks for gardeners in cooler climates, because the fruit turns yellow and is easier to find and harvest early. Another favorite of mine is an heirloom pumpkin that I first tasted in a savory tart – ‘Rouge Vif d’ Etampes’ (Cucurbita maxima ‘Rouge Vif d’ Etampes’), sometimes called “the Cinderella pumpkin.” (Her carriage was modeled after this pumpkin.) This beauty has wonderful scarlet-red hues, a slightly flattened appearance and plenty of sweet flesh inside, exemplifying the very best that pumpkins have to offer us each autumn – great look and taste.

I hope that you find this season’s pumpkins to be both decorative and tasty, too! (Now if you’d please pass the pumpkin pie…)