Roasting an Entire Pumpkin
Pumpkin goods are the reason behind my favorite season. Pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin polenta, pumpkin pancakes, braised pumpkin with short ribs, pumpkin seeds. I could eat pumpkin flavored anything, everyday. A few years back (putting together a Thanksgiving abroad in Glasgow Scotland) I discovered that it is more labor intensive and expensive to roast a pumpkin then to buy a can. Pumpkins have high water content, and yield less per pound with more effort. Nonetheless when Poorfarm farm brought its perfectly orange bounty to a Brooklyn corner near me I could not resist.
When shopping for a roasting pumpkin look for smaller varieties or a "Sugar Pumpkin" which is grown for baking. You don't want a jack-o-lantern. Tough, watery, and stringy. There are hundreds of other kinds of pumpkins, and you can usually get all kinds of gems at the farmer's market. I often roast Hubbard, butternut, or even yams in addition to or in place of traditional pumpkin. They have less water, are easy to peel, and don't need to be strained of water.
How To Roast a Whole Pumpkin
Remove rack so that only one remains on the bottom, or next to bottom shelf. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You aren't going to peel or cut the pumpkin in pieces. Roasting the whole thing whole will steam the pumpkin from inside out and loosen the tough skin. Place pumpkin on a foil lined pan. Water is going to seep out while the pumpkin cooks. Save your oven and use a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan. Cut 5-8 slits around the top and sides of the pumpkin to vent hot air. Remove the pumpkin's stem.
Bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours. The pumpkin may begin to brown on the outside. It will be soft to the touch, and an indentation will remain when poked. Right now the pumpkin is an orange balloon filled with hot steam. Be careful with it. Allow the pumpkin to deflate for 10-15 minutes. Cut open the pumpkin and allow it to completely cool about 20 more minutes.
Here is the best part! Just scoop out the guts and seeds with your hands. No need to scrape and scrape. Don't forget to save the seeds for roasting. Your oven is still pretty warm, and you can clean them up and pop them in right away. You can also peel the skin off too, but it requires a little bit of attention, as may not peel clean away.
You will be left with hunks of cooked, but watery pumpkin. Puree the hunks in a blender or food processor until smooth and consistent. Place in a fine mess sieve balanced over a container. This will allow the juice to drip off leaving you with a more condensed pumpkin puree for about 5 hours to overnight in the refrigerator I found that I got equal (if not greater if I had saved the juice that I squished out and baked off first) amounts of pumpkin juice to pumpkin puree. The pumpkin juice is pretty tasty, and you could save it for other purposes, like mixing with oj for an excellent breakfast experience.
I like my pumpkin puree a little chunky.
Note that I yielded less than 2 cups of pumpkin puree, less than 2 cups of juice, plus seeds from that big 3-3.5 pound pumpkin. It took around 12 hours to complete the process end to end, and cost me $5 plus some change for gas utility. The puree has a strong pure pumpkin flavor, and I'm confident it will make some excellent pumpkin bread. It would take me about 20 minutes to walk to the store and buy a 24 oz can of pumpkin for about $3. Luckily I love fresh roasted pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are the deal breaker.