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How to Make Homemade Canned Pumpkin -- Without a Can!

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Rumor has it that there will be a canned pumpkin shortage this year. Apparently, too much rain in Illinois has ruined this year's pumpkin crop for major brands of canned pumpkin.

But before you rush out now and stockpile cans for Thanksgiving, I strongly encourage you to not worry. You never have to buy canned pumpkin again because starting now you can make your own! It's super easy and much more delicious, and probably cheaper, too.

You'll need to make your canned when the pumpkins are ripe, so that may be in October (aka now!) rather than the week before Thanksgiving. But no worries--you make it when it's ripe then freeze it until you need it!

How to Make Pumpkin Puree in 5 Easy Steps:

1. Buy a pumpkin. Small is good. A baking variety is great--types like Cinderella, Autumn Gold, or Fairy Tale--but any kind will work, even a similar squash like butternut or Hubbard! Go to your local farmer's market and buy one directly from the farmer, if you can.

2. Roast the pumpkin. Wash the pumpkin and place it in a roasting pan with high sides (because juice may come out). Cut open the top and remove the seeds. Follow this method for roasting pumpkin seeds to snack on! You can roast them at the same time in the same oven as the pumpkin! Roast the pumpkin at around 375 degrees until it's soft (when you can easily stick a knife through it) and maybe even collapsed a bit. How it responds in the oven depends on the pumpkin's water content. So the knife test is the best way to tell if it's tender.

3. Remove the pumpkin meat. Separate the good pumpkin meat from the skin, and also from the gnarly fiber stuff, if there is any, that lined the inner cavity.

4. Blend the pumpkin meat well. I use a Vitamix food blender, but you can also use a food mill or probably even an electric mixer. The smoother you want the mixture, the longer you'll need to blend it.

5. Use it or freeze it! Voilà! You have created pure canned pumpkin puree. I freeze mine in glass jars and use it for pies, muffins, soup, and whatever else calls for pumpkin.

While this might seem like a little more work than simply buying a can from the store, one pumpkin will probably give you two to three cans' worth (depending on the size).

More importantly, roasting it will make your house smell divine, will give you a great nutritious and delicious pumpkin seed snack, and will give you bragging rights with friends and family that you made this puree from scratch. Even better if you grew the pumpkin yourself! Trust me, people will notice the difference and appreciate your effort. We'll just keep it between us that it's actually super easy!

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com