Making homemade pumpkin purée sounds like one of those #culinarygoal projects — something that sounds good in theory, but takes far too much time and effort to actually do. Not so much when you add the pressure cooker to the equation. In hardly any time, homemade pumpkin purée, and all the bragging rights that go along with it, can be yours. Just imagine the pumpkin pie you're on your way to making.
Why You Should Make Your Own Pumpkin Purée
If you're wondering why anyone would want to make homemade pumpkin purée when it's so easy to buy a can, I understand. The answer? Flavor. Homemade pumpkin purée isn't necessarily better than the stuff in the can — it's different. Pies and breads made from homemade purée taste fresher and lighter. There's a mild (and very pleasant!) vegetal flavor that you get from homemade pumpkin purée that isn't present in the canned variety.
Like all kitchen projects, this one doesn't start with the pressure cooker. It starts at the market.
For pumpkin purée, select a small sugar pumpkin. (These are sometimes labeled "pie pumpkins.") This variety of pumpkin tends to be less watery and more flavorful than large carving pumpkins. Look for a pumpkin that weighs between three and four pounds. That sounds big, I know, but there's a reason for this: After discarding the unusable parts and cooking the pumpkin, you'll drain it, removing most of the liquid. A three-pound pumpkin quickly turns into about a pound of purée, which is what you need for one perfect pumpkin pie.
During the fall, most grocery stores carry sugar pumpkins in the produce department along with all the other winter squash. If you can't find one, use an acorn squash. Believe it or not, acorn squash makes a great stand-in for pumpkin.
Key Tips for Making Pumpkin Purée
- Start with a clean pumpkin: When you're ready to make the purée, wash and dry the pumpkin. Place a damp — not wet — towel under your cutting board. This prevents the board from slipping and sliding while you cut the pumpkin.
- You might have to resize the pumpkin: If the pumpkin is too tall to fit inside the pot of the pressure cooker, you'll need to cut it in half. Switch to a serrated knife and use a slow sawing motion. Take care to keep your other hand away from the knife while you hold the pumpkin firmly.
- Range the cook time: Most sugar pumpkins cook in 15 minutes at high pressure. However, some pumpkins are really hard and dense and will take longer to cook. If your pumpkin seems unusually hard when you cut it, start with a 20-minute cook time. (How to know that it's unusually hard? If it takes some work to get a sharp knife into it, the pumpkin is harder than normal.)
- You can always cook it more: After releasing the pressure, poke the flesh of the pumpkin with a fork. You want it to be very tender. If it's not, return the lid to the pressure cooker and cook for an additional five minutes.
- Twice cooked is better: Place the pumpkin in a large pan to cool. Then cut it in half and scrape the flesh away from the skin. Place it into a mesh colander set over a bowl. This is key. The pumpkin will be too watery to use as-is without draining. Use the back of a large spoon to press the pumpkin gently. (If the holes in your colander are large, place a piece of cheesecloth in the colander before you add the cooked pumpkin.) Allow the pumpkin to drain for at least one hour. And that draining liquid? No need to toss it! It's great added to smoothies.
- Smooth it out: Blend the pumpkin until smooth in a food processor. Measure into 16-ounce (about 2-cup) batches and use in your favorite recipes. Oh, and here's one last, important, step: Remember to tell your family and friends that you made homemade pumpkin purée. I mean, what good is a #culinarygoal if you don't brag about it a little?
Instant Pot Pumpkin Purée
1 1/2 cups water
Wash and dry the pumpkin. Place it on a cutting board with a damp dish towel underneath. (The towel prevents the board from slipping.) Using a serrated or paring knife, cut a large circle around the stem like you would a jack-o'-lantern lid. Discard the lid and scoop out the seeds.
Set a wire rack in an electric pressure cooker. Add water to the pot. Place the pumpkin on the rack. (If the pumpkin is too large for the pot, cut it in half first.) Set the cook time for 15 minutes at high pressure. (If the pumpkin seems especially hard, start with a 20-minute cook time.)
When the cooking time completes, allow the pressure cooker to stand for 5 minutes. Do not vent it during this time. When the 5 minutes are up, release the pressure. Open the pressure cooker lid away from your face. Check the texture of the pumpkin. The pumpkin flesh should be fork tender. If it's not, replace the lid. Cook for another 5 minutes at high pressure, repeating the 5-minute natural release. Transfer the pumpkin to a cutting board and cool.
Fit a large mesh colander over a bowl, or line a regular colander with cheesecloth first. Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove any remaining seeds. Scrape the pumpkin flesh away from the skin into the colander. Using the back of a spoon, press on the pumpkin firmly to remove excess liquid. Let the pumpkin drain for 1 hour.
Transfer the drained pumpkin to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure into 16-ounce portions, about 2 cups each. If any pumpkin remains, use it in smoothies.
- Pumpkin substitute: If you can't find a sugar pumpkin, use 2 acorn squash instead, 3 to 4 pounds total.
- Storage: Keep the purée in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or place the fully cooled purée into a plastic freezer bag. Flatten and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- Using like canned pumpkin: 1 (16-ounce) batch of purée replaces 1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin purée.