Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins

It's pumpkin season. I love pumpkins and typically buy too many and have them all over the house for Halloween and Thanksgiving. I prefer the fat, round ones and a dramatic stem makes them even better. These little pie pumpkins made great decor...and then I decided to cook them.

This year, daunted by the pumpkin crisis, I decided I should make some homemade pumpkin puree. Just in case the shortage lasted longer than the five or so various sized cans I had stockpiled and forgotten. I felt I should be prepared.

Can you have too much pumpkin puree?

I think it's easier to roast pumpkins for puree, as you would with squash. Cut in half, pull out the seeds and pulp and place cut side down in a pan with a bit of water. The water keeps the pumpkin from drying out. With squash, I sometimes skip the water, the caramelized edges are tasty. For the puree, I wanted to get as much pulp as possible. There was shortage, remember?

The other way to approach this is by peeling and cubing the pumpkin flesh. This is the method I used for making pumpkin curd. I've found that peeling a pumpkin is only slightly easier than peeling a butternut squash. I certainly could have roasted the pumpkin for the curd as well but I tend to be a rule follower first time around with recipes.

Next into my trusty food mill. A food mill makes beautiful purees for projects of this nature, leaving behind any stringy bits or tough pieces of skin missed in the peeling process, something a food processor can't do.

If you are making puree for future projects, at this point you are done. I ladle 2-4 cups into freezer bags, label and lay them flat in the freezer for easier storage. When you want to use some, defrost at room temperature and proceed with your recipe.

The puree earmarked for curd went back into the cooking pot with lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter. Simmered for a bit - the recipe says 15 minutes (but mine was on longer) until the sugar dissolves. I think the final result is delicious. It's sweet, as a curd can be, and really fragrant with citrus. The applications are numerous, pancakes, biscuits, English muffins, scones, waffles, or ice cream would be lovely topped with a spoonful.

Since I had so much curd, I decided to heat process some of it. I think this was a good idea only because the butter separated. Perhaps with a bit of a stir, and dolloped onto a hot biscuit, all would be well. Should I do it again, I'd save myself the trouble of the hot water bath. It would keep well under refrigeration.

I think I'll go ahead and share a few jars as Thanksgiving treats anyway. Everyone needs a little pumpkin, especially when there is a shortage.

Pumpkin Curd
adapted from the Preserving Companion

4# pumpkin, peeled and deseeded
1/2 cup water
4# sugar
2 sticks butter
juice and zest of 4 lemons

Cut the pumpkin flesh into cubes. Boil in the water until tender and then press through a strainer. Return to the pan. Add the sugar, butter, lemon juice and zest. Stir well and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into jars. Seal, label and refrigerate.

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