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  • Mary Kay

Gram's Pumpkin Puree for Pies & More

While pumpkins are available - now is the time to make puree

Gram and her Mother always made their own pumpkin puree. There probably wasn't much available for them in the stores way back when. They canned, set in crocks, froze or butchered, smoked, stored items in the root cellar or in the smoke house - for almost all the food they ate. They were definitely self-sufficient, never wasting anything. If they threw any food out, it went to help fatten the hogs or feed the dogs and cats who kept rodents at bay from the farm's food storage areas.

Pumpkin puree was one of the items they made for their own use - for Gram's popular pumpkin pies with homemade whipped cream. Pumpkins from her garden provided the base for the puree. Today they tout them as pie pumpkins. I don't remember if that's what Gram called them. Whatever she called them, they must have been good because people always loved Gram's pumpkin pies, with that deep fall orange golden color inside her ever-flakey pie crusts.

As a little kid, I remember helping Gramps choose the pumpkins for pie making, toss them in the wheelbarrow and trot behind him down the path to the house. We would spread newspapers and brown paper bags all over the big kitchen table and clean the stringy pulp and seeds from the pumpkins. Gram would trim the tops off and cut them in big chunks. I would sort out the seeds and clean them in a bowl of water. Gram would salt them and bake them to dry them out for tasty little snacks later.

To make the puree, Gram would cut the pumpkins in quarters or more pieces, then bake them for a couple of hours. After cooling the baked pumpkins, it was fun to help her scoop out the soft insides and "plop" the stuff into a big bowl. She would refrigerate some for making pumpkin pie later. Or, she would can the filling for making pumpkin pie all winter. It was one of Gramp's favorite fall harvest flavors, especially with homemade whipped cream.

Pumpkin Puree Ingredients:

4-6 Pie Pumpkins

Make the Puree:

- Gram would cut the tops off the pumpkins and then cut them in 4 big quarters to make it easier to clean out the stringy pulp and seeds.

- Bake the pumpkin pieces for 1-2 hours, until tender.

- Scoop out the soft pumpkin meat into a large bowl.

- Mash the pumpkin "meat" as Gram called it, by hand with a potato masher. Today, I'm sure if people make their own puree, they are using a food processor. The puree should be very smooth, so it can take a lot of arm power.

- Spoon the puree into a metal sieve and weight it down with a plate and a heavy cast iron pan. That's what Gram used.

- After setting for about an hour, much of the liquid should have drained off. Gram would save the liquid, but I'm not sure what for. She and I would later take the leftover pumpkin skins out to the hogs. Sometimes she would put it back in the garden for plowing back into the soil. She never wasted anything. .

- Freeze the puree in bags, with enough for one or two pumpkin pies to be made later. She used to freeze a couple of cups for each bag. Their freezer was an enormous chest sized freezer out on the back porch that was filled with beef, pork, chicken, fruits and vegetables to tide them over for the winter. They got electricity on the farm around 1940, so that was one of the first things they invested in. (I remember she would even freeze some of her ironing in the freezer to iron when she had time, in between her other never ending chores around the house.)

- Gram would also can some of the puree in glass jars. I would help her carry them outside and around the yard to the side of the farmhouse, and down the stairs into the root cellar. By the beginning of winter, that cellar was filled with enough food to feed her family all winter - canned veggies, pickles of all types (dill, watermelon, sweet), fruits and meats; crocks of sauerkraut, pork layered with fat; bushels of fresh root veggies under big old rugs, and more. The cellar was very cold in winter, but never froze so the veggies and meats kept for many months.


- Gram kept her pumpkin puree in her refrigerator for 5 days or so.

- It will last a few months in sealed containers in the freezer.

- She used up all the pumpkin puree for pies and cookies and cake every winter, so I'm not really sure how many months it would keep in the canning jars. A year, maybe?

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