Canned pumpkin puree is a convenient choice for pumpkin breads, pies, waffles and soups; however, shortages can make it difficult to find, and some stores don't stock it all year round. You can make your own pumpkin puree or substitute other vegetables, depending upon what is available in your local market and on your flavor preferences.
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Bake Your Own
If you have your heart set on pumpkin, you can bake pie pumpkins, then create your own purees. A 4-lb. pumpkin will yield 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree. To make pumpkin puree from a pie or sugar pumpkin, cut the pumpkin in half. Cut away the stem and remove the seeds and stringy pulp. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking sheet, cover it with aluminum foil and bake it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for around an hour, or until the pumpkin is soft. Scrape the flesh from the skin and mash it. Substitute butternut or calabaza squash if pumpkin isn't available.
Sweet potatoes are available all year round and can be mashed or whipped into a puree. Wash the sweet potatoes well and poke them with a fork. Bake in the oven or microwave until soft; then scoop the potato from the skin and whip it with an electric mixer. Add a small amount of heavy cream if necessary. Use this puree in place of canned pumpkin in your favorite recipes.
Frozen Squash Purees
Frozen mashed winter squash is available in some grocery stores. Allow the frozen squash to thaw in a paper-towel- or cheesecloth-lined colander. Leave it until the excess liquid has drained; then use it in your favorite pumpkin recipes. Thawed frozen winter squash has a pumpkin-like flavor and can be substituted in equal parts for pumpkin.
If the pumpkin in your recipe takes the place of fat, rather than serving as flavor, try replacing it with apple sauce, apple butter or yogurt. The flavor will change, but these substitutes can provide moisture, just as pumpkin does. Opt for apple or prune purees or butters for spice breads or yogurt when a milder flavor is preferable.