How to Process a Pumpkin for Making Homemade Pumpkin Puree 

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Learning how to process a pumpkin for making homemade pumpkin puree is a quick and straightforward process. So don’t be daunted by the large size of the squash

After you’ve done it once, you’ll probably never need to reference a recipe for it again.

Making homemade pumpkin puree will provide the main ingredient you need for just about all pumpkin and squash favorites. It only takes a few minutes of prep work to create something delicious.

From pumpkin pie from scratch, pumpkin cheesecake bars, ice cream, pumpkin ravioli and even pumpkin dog treats, there are so many wonderful ways to use pumpkin puree. So once you learn these simple steps for how to process a pumpkin, you’ll be able to easily make all your favorite pumpkin recipes.

Before we get going with how to make pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkin, you need to pick out your squash, if you don’t already have it. If you’re not certain as to the best pumpkins for pumpkin pie, we’ll cover that here.

If you don’t need to know that and/or already have your pumpkin picked out, you can jump to one of these other articles or sections.

How to Process a Pumpkin

There’s more than one way to process a pumpkin, and we’ll get into that shortly. But if you need any of these other topics first, you can jump straight to them:

Cutting Pumpkins  Green and Orange

Cutting Fresh Pumpkin

Halving a Pumpkin

Our writer, Sarah Hamelman, a homesteader in the mountain wilderness of Montana, likes to slice the pumpkin in half horizontally. She says that a horizontal cut is the easiest way for her, since it avoids the tough stem while opening the entire pumpkin at once.

For larger pumpkins, you can go on to cut it into smaller pieces, by cutting vertically along the ribs if that’s easier for you to work with.

But for processing pumpkin for puree, it’s easier to cook it in halves, and then to remove the seeds and stringy pulp.

PUMPKIN FACTS: The scientific name for the fibrous, stringy pulp around the pumpkin seeds is funiculus (fyū-NĬK-ūlŭs). The most popular common terms for it is guts or brains. Your choice! 😄

PUMPKIN FUNICULUS guts or brains
The scientific name for pumpkin guts or brain is funiculus.

Sectioning a Fresh Pumpkin

Alternately, you may prefer to follow the natural vertical ridgeHow to Process a Pumpkin for Making Homemade Pumpkin Puree s of a pumpkin to slice out a section at a time. Here’s a helpful video on how to do that.

However, if you’re elderly, have weak hands, or are just timid about cutting through the hard pumpkin rind with a big sharp knife, you can jump to this section of cooking lightly before cutting.

A Safer Way to Process Cut Pumpkin

Good for kids, seniors and anyone with weak hands or wrists.

It can be scary to struggle to cut a big squash with a large sharp knife. Knives slipping while cutting are a contributing cause of knife cuts during cooking.

Our kids started helping cook when they were young, especially our daughter who wanted to be in the kitchen whenever Mom was. She especially loved stirring the pots and the wonderful aromas. My son didn’t really start cooking until late teens, but still needed guidance with cutting and knife use.

So we started using this easier and safer method of cutting and cooking squash and pumpkins.

This precook method is helpful for seniors and young cooks, or anyone with weaker fingers, hands, or wrists. If you’re concerned about slipping under the tension of trying to cut through a large, hard pumpkin or squash, there’s an easier method for cutting through pumpkin and winter squash. Precook it.

TO PRE-COOK PUMPKIN: Bake pumpkin lightly for about 10 minutes at 350°F / 176.7°C, or until skin (aka, rind) is easily pierced with a fork. You can see more on how to bake a pumpkin here.

Children cooking-my daughter cooking
Cooking pumpkin to soften the skin makes it easier to cut for kids and seniors!

How to Process the Pumpkin Seeds and Pulp (aka – Funiculus)

Jump to the Processing Pumpkin Seeds and Stringy Fiber Info You Need:

Removing Pumpkin Guts Before Baking

Using a large spoon, ice cream dipper, or melon scoop, scrape the interior to remove the seeds and set aside. All squash and pumpkin seeds are edible and nutritious, and can be cleaned off and saved for next year’s garden, or to roast and enjoy as a snack and in cooking, such as for topping salads and soups or making parsley pesto with pumpkin seeds.

Next, remove the stringy pulp, also called “guts”, “brains”, or more scientifically termed, funiculus. This can be made into broth, juiced, composted, or fed to pets and livestock for a nutritious and tasty treat.

While it’s extra effort to clear the seeds of the stringy, clingy pulp, it’s worth it, for they’re a good source of protein as well as other nutritional and medicinal benefits.

Alternately, you can remove the seeds and funiculus after cooking. We’ve done both and with about the same results. But if you’re removing it after cooking, just be careful not to scrape up too much of the fruity parts (aka: meat or pulp) of the squash. Once cooked, the flesh will be softer and easier to accidentally scoop up along with the stringy parts.

PUMPKIN TIP: Pumpkin seeds are a natural antiparasitic (anthelmintic) for humans.

SOURCE: Studies: Pumpkins seeds with areca nut;((https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22910218/)) Evaluation of anthelmintic value of pumpkin seeds((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037735/))
Processing pumpkin guts & seeds antiparasitic for humans

How to Bake Pumpkin

The next step for how to process a pumpkin is to bake the pieces. Place the pieces on a baking sheet, facing up or down, your choice.

If you place the pumpkins flat side down, the flesh may stick to the sheet a bit, but making it easier for the skin to slip right off. Or you can lightly oil the cookie sheet or place parchment paper on your cooking sheet.

Alternately, you can place the pieces or halves flat side up to help prevent any mess, but you may have to do a bit more work scooping the flesh out. We haven’t noticed much difference between the two overall, but face down does seem to cook it faster and to shorten the processing time.

It may be that the little bit of sticking, plus face down steamer effect expedites the cooking and processing. This position allows for a headstart in releasing the skin from the pulp. In addition, more steam is created from the captured moisture of the face-down squash, which helps in the cooking of the squash and release of the skin.

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 177 degrees Celsius, and bake for thirty to fifty minutes. Cooking time will depend on the type of pumpkin and the thickness of the slices or halves. It’s finished when it is fork-tender, which will feel like the tenderness of a well-baked potato.

Cook Lightly to Soften Before Cutting

Alternately, a safer way to cut pumpkins and winter squash is to poke a few holes into the skin of the whole squash using a sharp knife or fork. Then lightly cook the whole pumpkin just enough to soften it.

Place the entire pumpkin or squash (with holes poked through the skin), onto a baking sheet or casserole dish. Bake it whole at 350°F / 176.7°C for around ten minutes.

So while you are starting the cooking process here, it’s just long enough to soften the skin a bit, so around 10 minutes or until the skin is slightly softened. Test it by trying to make your knife cut as and where you plan to. If it cuts through the skin easily, then it’s ready for the next step.w

Once the skin is slightly softened, it’s easier and safer to cut in half and further into pieces if needed. For making puree, you can either remove skins (it may pull off easily here, or resume baking of the halved or cut pieces of squash and scoop out of the skin once baked tender).

Summary of Pre-Cook Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 176.7°C.
  • Poke holes in whole pumpkin with sharp knife tip or large, sturdy fork.
  • Place whole pumpkin onto baking sheet or pan.
  • Bake or ~10 minutes, or until skin is tender enough to cut easily.
  • Remove from oven and:
    • scoop out seeds and stringy pulp; set aside.
    • for puree, you can go ahead and skin the pumpkin here. It may peel off easily, but if not, you can remove it with a knife when it’s cool enough to work, or use a potholder to hold it as you work.
    • cut pumpkin as you wish, e.g., either in halves, quarters, or smaller.
    • Resume cooking until tender and mashable.
BAKED PUMPKINS Green and Orange on cookie sheet

How to Process Process a Baked Pumpkin

Some people prefer to bake their pumpkins and squash before process to remove the seeds an fibers.

Peel the Pumpkin Skin

If the pieces were face down, pinch the skin and strip it from the pulp. If the pieces were facing up, and the skin isn’t readily releasing, you can use a spoon or scoop to scrape out the fleshy interior of the pumpkin, if you didn’t remove the funiculus before baking.

Uses for Pumpkin Skin

Cooked pumpkin skin can be made into chips, or blended into a puree that can be added to human and animal food, including livestock, cats and dogs. Always test new foods for pets in small amounts at a time to be sure they like it and can digest it.

We’ve used it to add to nutritious but low cal body, creaminess to soups, such as roasted butternut squash soup.

The skin of some squash varieties is more enjoyable than others in flavor and thickness. However, all pumpkin rind is more digestible and desirable cooked, and worth experimenting with finding your favorite use for the added nutritional value.

Making Pumpkin Puree

Most pumpkin recipes for baking, use pumpkin puree. To process the pumpkin pulp into puree, we prefer a food processor. However, you can also use a blender, a mixing stand with a sturdy whisk, or even a handheld potato masher.

Pulse or mash the flesh until it is as smooth as possible. Aim for no chunks, though this may not be entirely possible if done by hand. If there is a lot of excess water, drain that off.

Bake-then Remove seeds pulp puree

Using or Storing Pumpkin Puree

You can now use the pumpkin puree to make pumpkin pie, refrigerate the puree, or freeze it. Some people have had success canning pumpkin puree, however, this practice is not recommended.((https://nchfp.uga.edu/tips/fall/pumpkins.html))

While commercially available canned pumpkin puree is readily available, it’s complicated and hazardous to do at home. That’s because all low acid foods, including pumpkin, must be canned using tested pressure canning processes at the right pressure and temperatures to insure food safety. So unless you’re a seasoned veteran of food preservation, best to preserve your pumpkin puree using one of the safer methods.

Another easy and handy way to preserve pumpkin puree is to dehydrate the puree into dried vegetable leather.

If you are making pumpkin pie from puree, keep your food processor out, and don’t worry about washing it because you can immediately move right into creating the pumpkin pie filling. (We love to save steps, and there’s something special about reusing cooking vessels that come pre-seasoned)!👩🏻‍🍳

For instance, whenever we make smoothies, we also lightly rinse the vitamix or blender pitcher with water or nut milk. Just give it a whir on high (make sure the lid is secure of course)! That quickly rinses any flavorful residue off the sides and is like a quick homemade vitamin water. See also, cucumber water with lemon and mint.

Now… what are the best pumpkins for pumpkin pie?

Powdered Pumpkin Puree

A reader shares her experience.

After cooking my squashes, freeze drying them, then powderizing it, I can make pumpkin bars, bread, pies, but mostly I use it in tomato sauce recipes. Thickens up the sauce and adds nutrients.
~Jan Michalak Elliott

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