By Stacy Harris
Before I began growing heirloom pumpkins, I had absolutely no desire to eat pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie, or any other kind of pumpkin treat—and that’s saying something, since I can be tempted to eat just about any dessert. My husband Scott, on the other hand, loves pumpkin and will even choose pumpkin pie over chocolate at Thanksgiving! I find that very hard to understand.
Our first year of gardening together, Scott insisted on experimenting with every kind of pumpkin that he thought would grow in our area. We had pumpkins busting out of our ears! To my amazement, pumpkin became my favorite vegetable that year. The first recipe I tried was a sensational pumpkin soup, which convinced me to do a little research to figure out what makes fresh pumpkin taste so different from canned.
I discovered something surprising: The canned “pumpkin” you find in the grocery store is actually made from butternut squash. It seems the word “pumpkin” generally refers to the broader category of winter squash. Aha.
So when Scott asked me to make pumpkin butter, I harvested several of the small pumpkins from our patch to make the puree. What a difference from store-bought! This puree was sweeter, had less moisture, and tasted both different and better than the canned version I was used to. And the pumpkin butter? It’s now one of my very favorite things to eat.
Find out for yourself how different and delicious fresh pumpkin tastes by trying my Spiced Pumpkin Butter recipe for yourself. Bonus: You can also use the butter as the basis for a pumpkin pie. Simply mix 2 cups of it in a large bowl with 2 eggs, 1 yolk from a third egg, 1½ cups heavy cream, and ½ teaspoon lemon zest. Place the mixture into an unbaked pie shell, then bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.
SPICED PUMPKIN BUTTER
4½ pounds (about 7 cups) pumpkin puree (preferably from small- to medium-sized sugar pumpkins)
1 pound brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
½ whole nutmeg
6 cloves allspice
¾ cup apple cider
1. Cut each pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds (save and toast them for a treat), then discard any stringy parts. Place pumpkins flesh-side down on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or foil. Bake pumpkins at 350 degrees for about an hour or until fork-tender. Remove pumpkins from the oven, let them cool, then scoop out the pulp and place it into a medium-sized saucepan.
2. Using a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee mill, grind the spices to a fine powder. Stir sugar, spices, and apple cider into the saucepan with the pumpkin.
3. Simmer the mixture over low heat for 1 to 1½ hours. It will thicken as you continue to cook, eventually reaching the consistency of butter. While thickening, it may stick to the bottom of the pan. No worries! You will know the pumpkin butter is ready when a wooden spoon leaves a clear path across the bottom of the pan.
4. Ladle into jars, seal, and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Or, let the butter cool, then ladle into freezer bags or freezer-safe mason jars (leave plenty of head space) and store in the freezer for up to six months.
Stacy Harris is pioneering the farm-to-fork eating movement that includes harvesting wild animals in addition to domesticated animals and homegrown fruits and vegetables. She’s the author of several books about sustainable living for healthy families, including her most recent release, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living. For more recipes like this check out her website at GameandGarden.com and her Facebook page.