It's around this time of year that I start storing up pumpkin puree in my freezer, in approximately one-cup quantities. I've read opinions that declare canned pumpkin puree just as good as, if not better than, the fresh stuff. And you know me—I'm always willing to go along with a more convenient shortcut. But all I can tell you is that in my experience… in my isolated, agoraphobic, reclusive experience… I've been more pleased with the outcome of pumpkin-based dishes in which I've used the from-scratch puree.

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To begin, select a couple of small-ish pumpkins. The larger they are—for instance, jack-o-lantern pumpkins—the more you’ll run into weird tastes and textures. (Though the first time my mother-in-law and I pureed pumpkin, we used a big motherin’ thing and it turned out just fine.)

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I think the one on the left senses the end is near. Could have something to do with the gigantic knife right next to him.

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Ugh. This is always the worst part. I'm sorry, guys… but you're a part of the food chain. I’m just following the natural order of things.

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Pretend he's a jack-o'-lantern and lop off his head near the stem.

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Cut in half like so…

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Then take a moment to examine his innards. Pretend you're a surgeon.

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Repeat with the other pumpkin.

Okay, wait a minute. I know there are vegetarians. I understand that. And while I don't necessarily subscribe to the exact same set of values vegetarians do, I do understand where they're coming from. Animals are sweet. And cuddly. And fellow citizens of this earth.

But before I continue with this personification of vegetables, is there such a thing as a belief system that espouses that vegetables are somehow alive? And that if we lop off their heads we're committing some form of murder? I just want to make sure before I continue on to the next step. I'm all about not offending here at I don't want to make anyone's hiney cringe.

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Anyway, as I was saying, back to the pumpkin's guts…

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With a spoon or a scoop, scrape out the seeds and pulp from the center.

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Sometimes, you have to use a little elbow grease—the stringy stuff likes to hang on. And don't get too worked up about leaving a few strings behind. It won't hurt anything. (Translation: I give you permission not to be thorough.)

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Place all the seeds into a bowl and puh-leeeeez do not discard them. We'll roast them later.

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Repeat until all the pumpkin pieces are largely free of seeds and pulp.

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Place pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet (face up or face down; I've done both) and roast in a 350° oven for 45 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork-tender.

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This is what it looks like when it's done—just nice and light golden brown. (FYI, I don't drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil before baking, because I want the puree to be in its purest form.)

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Here's what happens to the skin.

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And that makes it pretty easy to remove the skin from the pumpkin pieces.

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Sometimes, I use a knife and scrape the "meat" from the skin as I peel it back.

I don't want to sacrifice any of that delicious orange goodness. My eyes. They need it.

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Continue peeling off the pumpkin skin…

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Until you have a big pile of the stuff. And if you think I didn't break off a chunk of this stuff and pop it right into my mouth, you're sorely mistaken.

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Now, if you have a food processor, throw in a few chunks at a time. A blender will work, too, if you add a little water. OR… you can simply mash it up with a potato masher… OR move it through a potato ricer… OR process it through a food mill. Whatever makes your skirt fly up.

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Pulse the pumpkin until it's totally smooth. Now, while some pumpkin, depending on the batch you get, can be quite watery, this was almost too dry. I added in 3 tablespoons of water during the pulsing and it was just the moisture it needed.

(Note, if the puree is overly watery, you should strain it on cheesecloth or over a fine mesh strainer to get rid of some of the liquid.

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Dump the pureed goodness into a bowl…

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Then fill the food processor with more pumpkin chunks.

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And puree away!

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And dump it on into the bowl with its fallen comrades.

NOW! You can either use this immediately in whatever pumpkin recipe you’d like…or you can store it in the freezer for later use.

Here's how I store my pumpkin:

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Grab a large plastic storage bag and fold the edges outward. (This will keep you from smudging pumpkin all over the inside of the bag, not that that matters since it'll eventually be all over the inside of the bag anyway, so why am I even suggesting this? Forgive me, please. Forgive me.)

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I spoon about 1 cupful of pumpkin into each bag; that way, I know exactly how much I’m getting when I pull a bag out of the freezer.

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Seal the bag with just a tiny bit of an opening remaining, then use your hands to flatten out the pumpkin inside the bag and push out the air. See? IT'S A GOOD THING I HAD YOU FOLD THOSE SIDES DOWN SO YOU WOULDN'T GET PUMPKIN ALL OVER THE INSIDE OF THE BAG, HUH?

Sometimes, I amaze even myself.

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Fill as many bags as you can, stacking them as you go. Store them in the freezer until you need them. I know those freezer police try to tell you only to store it for six to eight months, but I SWEAR I've used year-old pumpkin from the freezer before with great success.

Don't tell the freezer police. I don't want any trouble.

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