Monday, December 3, 2012

A PANOPLY OF PUMPKIN


PUMPKIN JAM; PUMPKIN SAUCE or JELLY
& ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP

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Amazingly easy to store, incredibly versatile as far as their use in the kitchen, the fall harvest of pumpkins and squash are something you really should consider putting up in your winter pantry. Pumpkins are technically a fruit and a member of the cucurbit family, defined as ‘any creeping flowering plant of the mainly tropical and subtropical family Cucurbitaceae, which includes the pumpkin, cucumber, squashes, and gourds.’

The recipes I am sharing with you feature the sweet sugar pumpkin grown specifically for culinary use, but you could easily replace the pumpkin with a variety of squash such as the delicata, butternut or acorn varieties. Processing the pumpkin flesh for use in any number of recipes can be done by boiling or steaming, but baking is my favorite method. It is quick, easy and will soften up the flesh while cooking away some of the excess water.




Cut your pumpkin in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and stringy material. I save all the stringy insides and pumpkin skins so that I can create a pumpkin sauce or jelly; the seeds I set aside for roasting. Both recipes are below.

Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, open side down and bake in a preheated oven at 350 °F for about an hour more or less until the flesh is very tender when pierced with a fork. The edges and skin of your pumpkin will most likely be lightly browned, don’t worry, the natural sugars are caramelizing and creating a more robust flavor.




Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh. Mash with a potato masher or puree in your food processer. If your pumpkin pulp is too watery, you may drain it through a cheesecloth or a sieve. You can also cook it down to a thicker consistency in a saucepan as you prepare for your final recipes.

In general, a 5-pound pumpkin will yield about 4 cups of mashed, cooked pumpkin pulp. If you have more pumpkin than you need at the moment, place one cup measurements into a freezer Ziploc . Flatten, mark the date on the bag with a Sharpie and place in your freezer. This will make it easier to figure what you need for your recipes, 3 Ziplocs equal 3 cups, keep for 6 months or more in the freezer.



PUMPKIN JAM

INGREDIENTS

4 cups mashed Pumpkin

3 cups Sugar

4 Tablespoons crystallized Ginger, diced

3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/2  teaspoon Nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon Allspice

10 - 12 half pint canning jars.

Do not use  canning jars any larger than a half pint for this recipe.


DIRECTIONS

If your pumpkin is watery, gently simmer to evaporate.  Add sugar and allow to stand overnight.

Turn crystallized ginger, lemon juice, and spices into pumpkin–sugar mixture. Adjust to taste.

Cook slowly over medium heat until the mixture is thick.

Spoon into sterilized pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace, seal, and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.







PUMPKIN SAUCE OR JELLY

INGREDIENTS

Stingy insides, parings, scrapings and skin from a sugar pumpkin

Water

3 Cups Raw Sugar

Cinnamon Stick

Star Anise

1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/2 teaspoon Butter

For Jelly

1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

2 pouches of liquid Pectin

5 - 6 half pint Canning Jars


DIRECTIONS

Place all your pumpkin cuttings into a heavy bottom pan along with the Cinnamon Stick and Star Anise, cover with water and bring to a simmer. I usually let the pot simmer for several hours until the liquid is fragrant with a good color. Stir ocassionally.

Remove from stove top,  let cool, turn into a sieve or chinois and let drip overnight. Do not press or squeeze any of the pulp.

Measure your pumpkin juice, you will need at least 3 cups. If you are short juice, boil water and pour over pulp.  Add drippings until you measure 3 cups.

If you are MAKING JELLY combine pumpkin juice with nutmeg, salt, butter, cider vinegar, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add liquid pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouches. Continue to boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal.

If you are MAKING SAUCE combine pumpkin juice with nutmeg, salt, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat adjust spices.  Continue to simmer until thick.

Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.


Pumpkin Sauce can be poured over pound bread, ice cream, or replace for one cup of milk with one cup of pumpkin sauce  when making Rice Pudding. Delicious!
While there are numerous ways to use pumpkin sauce, there are equally as many recipes for Pumpkin Soup. For example, Canadian Living.com adds a McIntosh apple, caraway seed and white pepper to their version, while Martha Stewart prefers shitake mushrooms and vegetable stock in her pumpkin soup.


I cannot help but have a New England influence in my variation, I come from a long line of independent Yanks, so I make use of bacon fat, apple cider, chicken stock, and a splash of sherry (because I usually have some in the cupboard from making Sherried Strawberry Jam).

The point is, like Chicken Soup that Grandma use to make, all you have to do is go through the pantry and take stock of what is available and get creative.



ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP


INGREDIENTS

1 small (4-pounds more or less) Sugar Pumpkin, cut in half and seeds removed

1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat  (or olive oil )

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

1/2 cup small-dice Shallots or Yellow Onion

1/4 cup dry (fino) Sherry

1/2  teaspoon Nutmeg

2 cups Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth

2 cups Apple Cider

1 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Sage leaves plus some whole for garnish

1/4 cup Milk (optional)

Toasted Salted Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below)


INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place on a baking sheet cut-side down and roast until fragrant and tender when pierced with a fork, about an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

Using a large spoon, scoop out the flesh, place it in a medium bowl (you should have about 3 cups), and set it aside.

In a large Dutch Oven add the shallots or onions to the bacon fat or olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the stock or broth, apple cider, thyme, and reserved pumpkin and season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir to combine, and then bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the flavors have melded, about 10 minutes.

Using a stick or tabletop blender, purée the soup (in batches) until smooth. Place the blended soup in a clean saucepan. Stir in milk and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve garnished with pumpkin seeds and sage leaves, if desired.



TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS



Pumpkin seeds resting before roasting.

It helps, if you are going to eat pumpkin seeds with the shells on, to use the seeds from sugar pumpkins. Somewhat smaller than carving pumpkin's seeds, though you can use the seeds from them also, whichever you choose, boil them in salted water first and then toast them in the oven. This will assure just the right amount of crunch, instead of having the shells being tough and hard to chew.


INGREDIENTS

One medium sized pumpkin

Salt

Olive oil


DIRECTIONS

Cut open the pumpkin. Use a strong metal spoon to scrape the insides scooping the seeds and strings into bowl. I take the time to separate the seeds onto a baking sheet and retain the other ‘insides’ for making a Pumpkin Sauce (recipe above). Set the seeds aside to dry until you have time to get back to them.

Measure your pumpkin seeds in a cup. Place the seeds in a medium saucepan. For every half cup of pumpkin seeds, add 2 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt to the pan. Add more salt if you would like your seeds to be saltier. Bring the salted water and pumpkin seeds to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil, a tablespoon more or less. I like to shake my seeds in a bag of mixed spices: Spanish paprika, turmeric and salt is my personal favorite, but you can experiment with a variety of spices and seasonings, before spreading in a single layer on the roasting pan.

Bake on the top rack of the oven until the seeds begin to brown. Small pumpkin seeds may toast in around 5 minutes or so, large pumpkin seeds may take up to 20 minutes, but watch them so they do not burn.

Once the seeds are toasted, remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack. Let the pumpkin seeds cool all the way down before packing into a jar. Pumpkin seeds are healthy snacks, are fun for garnishes, and are always appreciated as gifts in pretty jars.

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