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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let's Talk - Pumpkin Butter



Recently, I discovered pumpkin butter.  I tasted some, and immediately thought, "I'll bet I can find a recipe online, and make it myself!"  I was right.

I bought a pie pumpkin and got googling, unprepared for the variety of recipes I'd find.  Through all of my research, I learned a few things about pumpkin butter.  It can be prepared in many different ways, using many different spices and sweeteners.  I'll share what I learned, so you don't have to spend time googling.

Although you can start out with canned pumpkin, fresh pumpkin is best, so get one while the getting is good.  Find yourself a good-sized pumpkin.  Considering the work involved, you'd might as well get some quantity for your efforts.  In fact, if you want, get two pumpkins, or even three!  I ended up with 4 1/2 cups of pumpkin from my gourd.

Prepare your pumpkin.  This involves some method of getting your pumpkin peeled and in small enough pieces to cook down.  I put mine in the microwave for about five minutes so that I could cut it in half.  Then, I scooped out the seeds and goop in the middle and roasted the pumpkin for about an hour, at 325 degrees.  Yours may take more or less time; but to test it, just poke it with a fork, and once it's soft, it's done.  Next, I scooped the pumpkin out of the shell (very easy) and glopped it into the crockpot.

I happened to want heat that cold morning, so the oven method sounded appealing.  You may want to do something different.  You can cut it up and peel the skin and then put it into your cooking utensil.  You may also cut the pumpkin into quarters or smaller, and cook it on the stove in a little water.

Back to what I did.  Once my pumpkin was in the crockpot, I added:

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (1/4 t. would be better, I think)

Again, you may adjust the spices according to your tastes.  I think cardamom would have been a marvelous addition, but I didn't think of it at the time.  I would have added ground cloves, but I didn't have any, hence the allspice.  (Note to self:  put cloves on the list before Thanksgiving!)

Add sweetener, if desired.  You may add up to 1 1/4 c. of white sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup.  I put it a measly tablespoon of honey.  My family would prefer more, so I'll be doing that.  The sweetener really does bring out the flavors.

Add liquid.  You can add water, apple juice, or apple cider.  I added a little water, then went to the store and bought apple juice concentrate.  I used probably 1/4 cup and added water.  The amount you use will depend upon the consistency of the butter.  In the end, you want it very spreadable, but thick enough not to be runny.  The trick is to add a little and keep adding until you get the desired consistency.

Cook on low to finish cooking the pumpkin.  The amount of time will vary according to how cooked the pumpkin was and how much you're making.  Keep an eye on it, though, stirring every hour so it doesn't burn.

The final step is to puree' the blend so you're not eating stringy stuff.  I used a stick blender right in the crockpot, which is the easiest way to do it, using the least amount of equipment.  If you don't have a stick blender, try a mixer or a blender.  You might have to add more liquid if using a blender.

Voila!  You have yummy, nutritious pumpkin butter!

Variations:  Add apple.  Yum.

Cook on the stove, or throw the whole mess into the oven (once the pumpkin is scooped and peeled,of course.  You could even make it in the microwave, I imagine.  Just put a loose lid on it.

Here's my point on pumpkin butter.  There are so many variations in pumpkins and in tastes that printing just one recipe would be a disservice, to my way of thinking.  Once you try it, you'll see that it's not one of those foods that has to be prepared just so.  There are also variations in the taste and size of pumpkins that the result would never be the same twice, so no need to bother measuring carefully--and you won't hear me saying that often!

Let's talk for a quick second about canning.  If you look, you'll find instructions for canning pumpkin butter.  At one time, the USDA did condone canning pumpkin.  This is no longer true.  It's been found that the pH of pumpkin varies too greatly for reliable canning, so do not can your pumpkin butter.  It will keep for up to a month in your fridge (although I have my doubts), or you can freeze it.  I am storing mine in small containers so we can use it quickly enough that I don't have to worry about its keeping.

Love pumpkin?  Now, you can get soap made with pumpkin!  Limited quantities available.  Get it while it's available, just $5/bar.  Add it to my October special, Honey Good soap, also at $5/bar.  Just email me that you read the pumpkin butter blog.

See the previous blog entry for more information.

http://www.SoapAndGarden.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's Been So Long!



Every word of the title was capitalized to emphasize just how shocked I am at how long I went without writing my blog.  Yikes!  

Writing is one of my favorite activities, so to go this long without, well, it's like fasting.  I'm glad to be back.  :-)  I have a pumpkin in the oven, roasting for pumpkin butter, and I'm ready to go.
So much has happened--getting daughter Emily off to college, going out of town to take care of our grandsons while our daughter Beckie and her husband, Matt, move to a new (nice) home, canning, September perennial planting, a wonderful women's herbal workshop in Binghamton, and furiously collecting data and writing the "Raves for Faves" article for the Saponifier, among other things, have kept me busy.  I can't say I've been sitting idle!  

I think I'll catch up in short bursts rather than a long, droning essay, and I'll begin by cluing you in on some great information about polyphenols by my buddy and fellow soap and bath and body maker, Cindy Jones.  Poly what?  Don't give up yet, it's not too technical.  You'll enjoy the short article, and be glad you got the information.

Without further ado, http://www.facebook.com/notes/cindy-jones/phytochemicals-what-are-they/439386781570
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October Special!

New, Honey Good Soap - Made with honey and goats milk and honey scent.  You'll love how it feels!  Just $5/bar for the month of October.

Other soap scents include: Lavender*, Gingered Orange, Lilac Breeze, Groovy Patchouli*, Black Raspberries & Vanilla, Rice Flower, Mint Medley*, Sultry Sandalwood Vanilla, Fresh Clean Herbs, Spun Sugar, Daybreak* (spearmint & eucalyptus), Oatmeal, Milk & Honey in scented or no scent added, Black Raspberry Vanilla, Midnight Merlot, Peppermint Breeze*, Cucumber Mint*, Biergarten, and Rice Flower.

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Not on my site:

Herbal Bath Teas: Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey, Purely Herbal Blend, Four Milk Blend, and Relaxation Blend - just $2/ea.
Liquid shower gel: All natural. 2 oz. for $4; 4 oz. $6.00. In any scent listed above. (see special above)
Lotion: Hand and body lotion - 4 oz, $7
Foaming Soap: Comes in the seasonal Apple Pie, plus Gingered Orange, Summer Tropical, and Lavender. Just $7/bottle for 6 fl. oz. (see special above)

Honey Good Soap