Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pumpkin Butter

My folks' neighbors have a pear tree that produced more than it ever has this year. I took advantage of the unusual season and shook about 5 gallons of pairs from the tree and made a batch of pair butter over Thanksgiving weekend. When I gave a jar of the pair butter to some farmer friends of mine in Sugar Grove, NC, they took me down to their cellar where they gave me two heirloom variety pumpkins.

The older of the two farmers, Hoyt Combs, told me I "better not carve no face into those or make a jack-0'-lantern; those are for eatin!" And so, I decided to make pumpkin butter today.

As usual, I didn't really follow any exact recipe. I looked at a few basic pumpkin butter ingredient lists, and pretty much added how much I, particularly my tongue, felt was right.

Here are general amounts, trying hard not to use words like "pinch" or "dash".

  • 10 cups of puréed pumpkin
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  1. Assemble it

I used the larger heirloom pumpkin, some really nice Vietnamese cinnamon. I didn't use the arrowhead pictured, but I did find it yesterday! (I'll shamelessly show 'em off any chance I get)

2. Cut 'em open, save the seeds

Next, I cut the pumpkin in half, and pulled out the seeds. The seeds can be roasted in the oven as you cook the pumpkin, and make a good cooking-snack if you bake them with a little brown sugar and salt. Then, take a spoon and scrape the excess "seed debris" from the inside.

3. Cut & Bake

Next, cut the pumpkin into manageable peices and place on whatever you've got. I baked mine at 375 until soft enough to easily puncture with a knife or fork (or about 20 minutes). Notice I just put the seeds on the same baking sheet as the pumpkin. They will be done in about the same amount of time.

4. Sterilize Jars

Ok, a lot going on. While baking the pumpkin, I started the canning operation. To insure you don't kill yourself or those who recieve this stuff as gifts, you need to boil the jars and lids for 10 minutes. The above photo shows jars/lids boilin', with the baked pumpkin and seeds to the left, ready for the next step.
5. Purée, add ingredients, and boil
I took the baked pumkin, cut off the skin (this should be very easy if it has baked long enough), put the peices in the blinder and puréed until it turns into baby food. Once of baby food consistancy, add all spices, sugars, whatever you like, and bring to a boil.
I strongly reccomend stirring constantly while boiling. This stuff can be pretty thick, so boiling bubbles have the tendency to burst, launching bits of flaming goo onto your extremeties and face. So, stir constantly, unless you wish to pay a visit to the aloe plant as I did.

The result: about 8 1/2 8oz jars of pumpkin butter
Once you've boiled the goo for about 10 minutes (or longer, depending on your hand muscle strength index), you're ready to can. This process is fairly easy with two people, but when you are single and .... ok that's enough. Take one jar out of the boiling water at a time with tongs, and place it on a dish towel. Ladel the pumpkin butter into the jar and fill to within 1/8" of the rim. Wipe off any excess butter and place the lid on the jar with tongs. Now use your hands and screw on the lid fully.
This stuff turned out pretty good, and I'll be curious to know how it will age and, as always, if any family members mysteriously catch a case of botulism.
Some things to keep in mind and tips:
I've heard that the conventional pumpkins you buy for halloween can be a bit bland and wattery, as well as the pre-canned purée from the store. This pumpkin was really sweet and needed a fraction of the sugar that most recipes called for. Try finding a local farmer who grows pumpkins and ask about different varieties for baking.

Minimize waste by: composting what you don't use and washing the dishes with the water that was used for boiling the jars/lids. You can also just reuse old jars and lids instead of buying a new set.


kackalak said...

Aww hey Eric! It's Kathleen. Your pumpkin butter recipe looks scrumptious -- I think I will try it out. I've used halloween pumpkins in the past to do the same thing (baking them until soft) and they turned out full of flavor. Just a suggestion if you can't find those special pumpkins - regular pumpkins, in my experience, work great.

anna d said...

tsk tsk, pear is spelled pear