With East Coast pumpkin patches wiped out by Hurricane Irene, carving your jack-o-lantern is a pricier project this fall. When you shell out a small fortune for this Halloween ritual, you can’t afford to let it rot after trick-or-treating is over. Recycle it into pumpkin purée for bread, muffins, pie, or my buddy Kelly Senyei’s Pumpkin Turkey Chili.
Bakers will tell you that the pumpkins grown for carving aren’t as tasty as the sugar and cheese pumpkins preferred for pie. But hey, your jack-o’-lantern, after the melted wax is scraped out and the soot washed off, is still an edible squash and shouldn’t be wasted.
The most fuel-efficient way to get to purée is to cut the squash into chunks and steam it, covered, over boiling water for about 25 minutes, until it’s really tender—compare that to roasting for 2 hours at 400°F! Scrape the flesh from the shell, and purée it in a food processor.
But don’t stop here. Pumpkin flesh holds a lot of water, and to get the purée to the consistency of the canned product, you’ve got to drain it. Scoop it into a fine-mesh sieve—no need to line the sieve with a paper towel—and set it over a bowl. After about 8 hours in the fridge, 2 pounds of pumpkin will yield about 1 1/2 cups dense purée and 1/2 cup pumpkin water. Chill or freeze the purée, and add the pumpkin water to soup. But tell me, what do you make with pumpkin purée besides pie?