Roasted pumpkin seeds, anyone?
Roasted pumpkin seeds, anyone?

Someone, in fact, did say it would be easy. Blogs, books and Food Network throw-downs abound regarding the mindless simplicity of making your own pumpkin purée.

Why, a Boy Scout with a pocket knife and old set of bicycle gears could do it.

I saw photos of the process: step-by-step instructions where: 1. docile pumpkins lay in wait, 2. are cooked, 3. their cooked skin practically rolls itself off its own pulp, and 4. the pulp blends beautifully.

In the time it takes to file your nails, you could produce a batch of smooth and vibrantly colored purée that would be fresh with flavor and bursting with vitamin A. It would be so much tastier than that brownish orange glop that comes out of a can.

Yes, according to the blogs, the nutrition-to-ease ratio is roughly five-to-one in favor of going for it. I should have known better because the truth is, I’m not that great in the kitchen. I’m famous in my house for burning water.

But I’m a farm-to-table kind of gal,so go for it, I did. I bought two pie pumpkins, one of which happened to be organic. I did a quick calculation of the cost and estimated that for the same amount of money, I could have purchased a case of Libby’s canned pumpkin— or a completely baked pie. Home I went.

After only about an hour, the pumpkins were sliced and gutted, their slimy, stringy seeds in a large bowl of water, awaiting the next farm-to-table treatment. I decided that roasting the pumpkins would be the simplest cooking method, so I lined up slices on a cookie sheet and shoved it in the oven.

Soon, my house was filled with the healthy smell of squash. The slices were supposed to roast for 45 minutes, but my oven was not cooperating. It has digital controls, of course, and extremely sensitive ones, which means that if I so much as stand next to it and sneeze, it turns off.

The pumpkin had been in the oven for 30 minutes when I realized that the oven had at some point—stopped heating. I was beginning to get impatient, and steaming was supposed to be faster, so I crawled under my kitchen cabinet, pulled out my stock
pot, and dumped the entire batch of pumpkin pieces into the steamer basket.

I was clocking into my third hour of partying with the pumpkins, and they still weren’t done. I didn’t care—I was ready to get this over with and go shoe shopping.

The skins that had peeled off so effortlessly in the photos were clinging to the pulp the way a woman clings to her purse
on a New York subway, and I whittled them off, inch by inch, and threw yellowish chunks of pumpkin into the food processor. My processer wasn’t machine enough for the job, though, and large masses of squash refused to be pulverized. So I pulled out my
blender.

I was puréeing my third batch of the stuff around the time my kids started asking what was for dinner. Finally, during hour four, I puréed my last batch, wondering all the while what my neighbors were doing on this beautiful afternoon, just days before Thanksgiving. I surveyed my kitchen: there was a dirty food processer, an orange, goo-coated blender, a cookie sheet covered with sticky pumpkin seeds, a stock pot on the stove and a counter filled with pumpkin parts. I had produced four cups of bright orange…glop. It was filled with pumpkin strings, bits of rind, and chunks of unpuréed pumpkin.

Well. You don’t find THAT in a can! It was of questionable consistency. That wouldn’t matter if it were on its way to becoming risotto, but as the featured ingredient of a pumpkin-shaped muffin, it mattered.

The muffins came out cute and properly formed, but were missing a certain something, a key element…that robust flavor of pumpkin that comes conveniently out of a can. I called them “spice cakes” and roasted the seeds. And the seeds were good.

Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at robinjm@earthlink.net.

Robin Conte

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

One reply on “Robin’s Nest: Squash the day when making a purée”

  1. Okay now, Robin!! I’m going to look up “Pumpkin Abuse” in the Dekalb County Criminal Code to see if we have a felony or a misdemeanor here!! Seriously, I “burn water” too–one reason my wife Margie and I are such good customers at IHOP!! Hope that you still had a Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays to you!!–Tom Reilly

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