Thanks to the seasonality of produce, pumpkins are basically inseparable from autumn. In October, pumpkins are typically picked from patches and carved into jack-o'-lanterns. In November, pumpkins (along with gourds and squash) adorn dinner tables all over the U.S. as center pieces and pies. And, if you look at many pumpkin pie recipes, they may often call for a can of pumpkin filling or puree. The question still remains though: how are pumpkins turned into a delicious puree?

Carving Pumpkin vs. Pie Pumpkin

What's in canned pumpkin puree has actually been somewhat of a controversy since 2012, when an article was published Food & WineThe article claimed that what's in canned pumpkin is actually a blend of different varieties of  squash such as butternut or golden delicious. Since then several other publications have written about the topic of canned pumpkin — and what it's really made of. However, just about everyone knows that if you want a good pumpkin puree, you shouldn't use the same pumpkin as you would for carving. Libby's, the worlds largest manufacturer of canned pumpkin, uses a variety of pumpkin that looks much closer to a squash than the pumpkins you might find at your local pumpkin patch — be sure to remember that next time you want to bake a delicious pumpkin pie.

The Process

Most of the time, when at-home chefs make tasty pumpkin recipes, the puree comes from a can. But, you can actually make pumpkin puree at home as well. Whether it's made at home or in a factory, all pumpkin puree is made using the same essential processes. 

The process involves separating the stem, rind and seeds from the pumpkin. Then, it is cooked in order to bring out the sweet flavor. Finally, the pumpkin is blended until it is the fine, smooth consistency that we all know and love.

At-home pumpkin puree recipes will have you remove the stem and guts and seeds, then roast the pumpkin in an oven. Once the flesh is soft, it is scooped out of the skin and blended until smooth. While recipes may very slightly on details (such as seasoning), most of the process is the same. Minor variations aside, recipe to recipe, the basic process for making pumpkin puree is the same. While it won't be identical to canned puree, as factories may use fancy machines during the process, and do the essential elements are still there.

For the longest time, I (as well as you, I'm sure) didn't know what canned pumpkin actually was or how pumpkins went from the patch to the pie. As it turns out, the round orange fruit (yes, fruit!) that we typically think of usually isn't the same kind of pumpkin that goes into pumpkin pie. Whether pumpkin puree is made in a factory or right at home in your kitchen, all puree goes through the same steps when getting turned into the delicious pumpkin products we look forward to every fall.