Choosing a Pumpkin
Choose a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size and is dark orange in color. The pumpkin should not sound hollow. Smaller pumpkins tend to have the best flavor. You can use any kind of pumpkin, but sugar, or pie pumpkins, have a strong flavor that tastes particularly good in recipes.
Make Pumpkin Puree in the Oven
Rinse the pumpkin in water without using soap. Use a sharp knife to slice the pumpkin in half. Remove the pulp and seeds from the middle, but leave the rind on. Lay the pumpkin, cut side down, in an oven save baking dish. You may need to use more than one dish if the pumpkin is large. Add two inches of water to each dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. The pumpkin is done when you can easily pierce it with a fork.
Make Pumpkin Puree in the Microwave
This method works best with small pumpkins. Rinse and cut the pumpkin in half as described above. Remove the pulp and cut the pumpkin into large pieces. Put the pieces, flesh side down, in a microwave safe dish. Add two inches of water to the dish and cover with saran wrap or a lid. Cook the pumpkin on high in the microwave for 20 minutes. Turn the pumpkin every five minutes while it is cooking. If the pumpkin is not tender, put it back in the microwave. Check every five minute to see if it is done.
Finishing the Pumpkin Puree
Once the pumpkin has cooled, use a spoon to scrap the flesh from the rind. Use a blender or food processer to make the pumpkin puree smooth. You can also just use a fork to mash any large pieces. Substitute the fresh pumpkin puree in any recipe that call for canned pumpkin in equal measure.
Freeze the Pumpkin Puree
If you don't want to use the fresh pumpkin puree immediately, you can freeze it. Scoop the pumpkin puree into a freezer bag, leaving some space at the top. When you want to use it, simply thaw it out and strain off any extra liquid.