Creamy, custardy pumpkin pie is probably the best thing anyone has ever made with a vegetable. But what if I told you there’s a way to make the hallmark of your Thanksgiving dessert spread even better than what you’re used to?
The key lies in roasting your own pumpkin. Canned will do in a pinch, but freshly roasted pumpkin has a flavor and texture that just can’t be compared with what you get at the store.
More: How to make a pumpkin pie inside a mini pumpkin
You technically can just boil or steam your pumpkin, but roasting is really the way to go. As it roasts, moisture evaporates, concentrating the pumpkin flavor. Plus the sugars in the pumpkin begin to caramelize, giving you an added depth of flavor you could never hope for with other methods.
Choose the right pumpkin
Sadly those ginormous pumpkins at the grocery store are not your ticket to a year’s supply of cheap pumpkin purée. The variety of pumpkin we make jack-o’-lanterns from is too watery and stringy to make a nice, smooth pie, and they’re pretty much flavorless.
Look for small baking varieties, often just called sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins. Some specific varieties that make for a delicious pumpkin purée include the following:
- Baby Pam
- New England pie
- Winter Luxury
- Long Island Cheese
- Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin
One small pumpkin is the equivalent of about one 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée from the store.
Tools you will need
- Large, heavy-duty, sharp chef’s knife. You don’t want to try to cut into the thick skin and hard flesh of a pumpkin with a dull paring knife.
- Well-secured cutting board. Set it on top of a damp dish towel so it won’t slip around the counter when you start chopping.
- Large spoon for scooping out seeds. An ice cream scoop works great.
Cleaning and roasting your pumpkin
- Remove the stem, and cut your pumpkin in half from top to bottom.
- Remove the seeds and stringy pulp from the center of the pumpkin. It helps if you start from the bottom of the pumpkin and work your way up. You may need to use your hands to get everything out.
- Roast the pumpkin halves cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour or until the pumpkin skin is wrinkled and easily pierced by a fork.
- Let the pumpkin halves cool slightly, then peel the skin off the flesh (it should be quite easy at this point), or scoop the flesh from the skins.
- Purée in your blender or food processor, and get ready to make some pie.
For your everyday pumpkin pie needs (not that I eat pumpkin pie every day…), canned will do. But for special occasions that call for the best, roasted pumpkin is the perfect way to up the ante on your pie game.