Skip the can and make your own pumpkin puree at home. It’s easy, smells incredible and works perfectly in your favorite pumpkin recipes. Look for baking pumpkins often labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”. There’s lots of variety so if you are buying directly from the farmers at farmer’s markets, ask them which pumpkin works best for your needs. This method works with most winter squashes — think butternut, acorn or interesting varieties like honeynut.
1 small baking pumpkin, 4 to 6 pounds
Fine sea salt, optional
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Rinse and pat dry the pumpkin. Cut the squash from stem to end, but don’t try to cut through the stem (it’s too tough). When you’ve cut through the pumpkin, just pull each half apart. We do this in two parts. Cut one side from the stem down to the bottom of the pumpkin. Remove the knife, rotate the pumpkin to the opposite side then do the same. When there is a slit down both halves of the pumpkin, put down the knife and pull the halves apart. They should separate at the stem.
Scoop out the seeds and most of the stringy bits. Lightly season the inside of the pumpkin halves with salt then place cut-side-down onto the baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkin can easily be pierced with a knife in several places and the flesh is pulling away from the skin, 45 to 60 minutes.
Cool until you can safely handle the halves then scoop out the soft flesh into a food processor — depending on how large the pumpkin is, you may need to do this in two batches. Process until very smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.