It's almost Halloween! Do you have your jack'o'lanterns ready? We have two that we'll carve later this afternoon (I don't like to carve too early so my pumpkins look good on Halloween). Don't forget: Don't throw away those seeds. Roast them up with some salt or spices for a great treat. (Read more about roasting pumpkin seeds and two ways to flavor them here.) Along with Halloween, we have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, which means lots of pumpkin pie to eat too. (Did I mention I love pumpkins?) In the past, I've gotten pies from Marie Callendar's and Village Inn, both excellent pie/restaurants in Utah. I've made my own pies using Libby's Pumpkin Puree, which is delicious (and just about the only brand sold here, but at least it's good). But I've never made my own completely from scratch. Now that I have, I don't think I'd go back to either! Pumpkin puree is just too versatile and those cans are so much more expensive. Plus, it's so darn easy to do. So, today, I'm going to talk about how to make your own pumpkin puree that can be used in making pumpkin pie, instead of using stuff in a can. Tomorrow, I'll post a recipe for making an excellent pumpkin pie using it, along with an easy pie crust. We picked out a couple of small pie pumpkins (also known as sugar pumpkins). As with all winter gourds, you want firm, heavy-for-their-size pumpkins. No soft spots or evidence of rot or frost. If you like pumpkin or pumpkin pie, I would roast at least two or three pumpkins at a time. Why waste oven energy? Even one medium pie pumpkin will give you more mash than you need for a single pie, so I recommend storing the rest in 1-cup containers or baggies so you can easily use it for making pumpkin bread or pumpkin polenta (upcoming) or maybe just more pies later on. For tomorrow's pumpkin pie, you'll need to set aside 375g or 1 1/3 cups of pumpkin mash. Don't worry about keeping in the fridge, it'll last for about 5 days. If you don't use it before then, freeze it for later.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree [printable recipe]

at least 1 pie or sugar pumpkin

Cut pumpkin(s) in half. Scoop out strings and seeds, reserving seeds for roasted pumpkin seeds later. Remove stem. Place cut-side down on a baking pan lined with foil or a silicone mat. Cover with foil and roast at 350F for 90 minutes or until tender.

Allow it to cool until you can handle it comfortably. Peel off the skin (it should peel off easily) and cut pumpkin into chunks. Or, you can scrape out the meat but I found this counterproductive when peeling was so easy. Put the pumpkin chunks into a large bowl. Mash well until no chunks remain.

Pumpkin mash will keep up to 5 days, well wrapped, in the fridge.