Friday, December 17, 2010

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Back in October, Brient and I took the kids to two different pumpkin patches. It was LOADS of fun! The kids all had a blast, and they each came home with a pumpkin from each patch. Also, at the last patch, Brient and I got a pumpkin! So all together, we had ten lovely pumpkins. We don't celebrate Halloween, but I do let the kids decorate their pumpkins. They paint them or use markers to decorate them. And they made lovely decorations for our Thanksgiving celebration!

After Thanksgiving was over, I was ready to begin decorating for Christmas. But I had all these pumpkins all over the place! I just couldn't throw out good pumpkins, so I did what I do every year - we cut them open, roasted the seeds, and cooked and canned the pumpkin. Even though I can buy a can of Libby's pumpkin for about a dollar, I just really enjoy preserving foods. I do the same thing each year, and I end up with lots of jars of pumpkin to use throughout the year.

I had several friends question how to cook pumpkin, and, after you do all that work, what in the world do you do with all that pumpkin! So I wanted to share my canning directions, and several of the yummy recipes that we enjoy that use pumpkin.

I have a 1974 Ball Blue Book of Canning and Freezing that I go by for canning pumpkin. Here is how I cook my pumpkin and what the directions in the book say for the actual canning.

For Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Wash firm, fully ripe pumpkin/squash. Cut in half, and scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting later). Place each pumpkin half face down in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees until you can poke a fork in it.
Scoop out the pulp, and pour hot into hot Ball jars, leaving 1" head space. Add 1 tsp. salt to each quart, and 1/2 tsp. salt for each pint. Wipe rims of jars. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour 5 minutes, and quarts 1 hour 20 minutes, at 10 pounds of pressure. (You have to use a pressure canner for pumpkin.) When you take them out of the canner, put them in a spot and leave them for 24 hours, to be sure the lid seals.

After you have your pumpkin canned, store it in your cabinet just like you would any of your other canned foods. You can use it all year!

One of our absolute favorite recipes is pumpkin spice bread. I can't remember where I found this recipe. It probably came off of the Libby's can or something. This recipe is one that I make every year around this time. We use it for breakfast or just a good snack. And this year for Christmas, I am giving these to many of the people in my church.

Pumpkin Spice Bread
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin, packed
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all of these ingredients together with a blender. Add:

3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix all of this well. Add:

1 1/2 cups nuts (I use pecans.)

Fold in the nuts. Divide between 3 loaf pans, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
I also make this recipe into muffins, and we like them that way for breakfast. It takes less time to cook if you put the batter in muffin cups - about 20 minutes. 

After looking online at lots of pumpkin recipes, I found a soup recipe that turned out DELICIOUS! 

Creamed Pumpkin Curry Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

-Saute these for 3-5 minutes, until aromatic. Add:

1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth

-Simmer 10-15 minutes. Add:

15 ounces cooked pumpkin
1 cup half and half (or other milk or non-dairy substitute)

-Simmer 5 minutes.

Puree in a blender, and serve warm. This can be frozen for up to two months.

There are so many different ways that pumpkin can be used, from appetizers to main courses to desserts. You can make breads, muffins, pudding, salad, soup, stew, cookies, cheesecake, gingerbread, waffles, pancakes, and so much more. Pumpkin goes WAY beyond the pumpkin pie! Check out Better Homes and Gardens web site that shows 36 different yummy pumpkin recipes!

And now, I'm off to pull out my third batch of pumpkin spice bread from the oven. It is making my house smell so good right now! And after looking at all those 36 different recipes, I'm thinking about making up a batch of pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake bars. They are calling my name! I hope you enjoy these recipes that our family loves so much! 

Just remember, you don't have to throw away your fall decorations. Try preserving them. Unless, of course, you're like my friend and go shoot them up after lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

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