Late Summer is Actually Just Early Pumpkin Season.
We have almost made it through August! The hottest part of the year is theoretically behind us. We are picking and putting up tomatoes. We are harvesting herbs to dry over the winter. The less-terribly-hot-and-humid weekend allowed me to do some much needed weeding, during which I picked up a gnarly case of poison ivy. All fairly typical late-summer happenings, if I am honest.
The very rainy summer left me with very mildewy squash, zucchini, and cucumber plants. Other gardening friends in the area have had the same issue. I tried to keep it under control with neem oil spray, but there is only so much that can be done during the wettest July on record! Since I do not want those mildew spores taking up permanent residence in my soil, I pulled the plants up this week and brought them to our town’s yard waste dump site. My compost pile gets hot, but I am not certain it gets hot enough to kill powdery mildew spores.
The pumpkins seem to be a bit more resistant to the mildew. It probably helps that they are in a sunnier part of the yard. We have six pumpkins ripening in the back yard. Yes, my last report noted five, but I spotted another this week while picking tomatoes. A am very excited at the prospect of having a good Jack-o-lantern display. (Please fill the comments section with tips and tricks for carving pumpkins.)
While pondering the fate of my pumpkins from this year, I realized that I still have some pumpkin puree from last year in my freezer. After a scroll through the internet looking for ways to use it up, I settled on pumpkin butter. It is easy to make, I had all the ingredients already, and it is never to early for pumpkin spice flavored food!
Most of the recipes I found called for three and a half cups of pumpkin, or two 15 oz cans. I had about four and a half cups in the freezer, so I just used it all. The typical spice requirement for this volume of pumpkin was two teaspoons each ginger and cinnamon, one teaspoon nutmeg, and one half teaspoon clove. That really all should be to taste, though. If you do not like one spice or another you can absolutely leave it out. You can also add other spices, like orange or lemon peel, vanilla, cardamom, allspice, mace, star anise…whatever you enjoy. Go full Bob Ross- it’s your little world, make it what you want. Some recipes called for apple juice or cider to thin the pumpkin. Mine was a bit more watery that typical canned pumpkin, so I did not bother. Sugar levels ranged from one and a half to two cups. Again, depending on your taste and how sweet your pumpkin is, you might need more or less. Furthermore, white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, jaggary sugar, maple syrup, cane syrup, or pureed dates can be used as a sweetener. Again, you just do you. Here is what happened in my kitchen.
- Step one: I thawed the frozen pumpkin over low heat. While that happened, I measured out my spices. (I used the 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp nutmeg, half tsp clove formula.)
- TOP TIP: Do not neglect stirring it regularly. Scorched pumpkin is not yummy.
- Add the spices and sugar. I started with just one cup of brown sugar. You can always add more sweetness. You cannot remove it. I half-covered the pan as it cooked over medium heat. This mixture will bubble and splatter, but I did need to remove some of the water. I stirred frequently to prevent scorching.
- When it mounds up in a spoon, it is ready. I found the single cup of sugar to be sweet enough. I let the mixture cool a little, then moved it to the refrigerator. It will keep for up to three weeks.
What can pumpkin butter be used for? Use it just like jam on toast, in nut butter sandwiches, in pastry, between cake layers…or in my favorite pumpkin spice application. Observe:
- Brew some coffee. I used my espresso machine and some of the super spectacular multitasker blend Mr. Food It Yourself gave me for my birthday this year.
- Scoop a couple tablespoons of pumpkin butter into your mug and add the coffee.
- Mix in a coffee whitener of your choice.
- Enjoy the best pumpkin spice coffee ever.
I always lament the briefness of a New England summer. However, I must admit that autumn is my favorite season! I openly and shamelessly enjoy all the pumpkin spice flavored items that autumn brings. Best of all, I have the power to add home made pumpkin spice goodness to anything I choose now. What favorite flavors have you worked into your DIYet? Share in the comments,( along with tips for pumpkin carving).