A couple of weeks ago, as fall was just starting to set in, I got an itch – a culinary itch – and figured that the best way to scratch it was to make the biggest batch of pumpkin butter that I could. And then, in order to spread the fall cheer (and make sure that pints and pints of yummy sweet stuff did not sit in my house waiting to be consumed), I would give a bunch of it away. And that, my friends, turned out to be an excellent idea.
After perusing the ever-wise internet for a while to get a sense of what makes pumpkin butter successful, I set about the task of making my own. There were a couple of bloggers out there (I won’t name names) who actually bothered to type up a recipe using canned pumpkin and a crock pot, but those of you who know me will not be surprised that this was not the way I was going to make pumpkin butter. I mean, how hard could it really be to steam a bunch of pumpkin and puree it? Turns out that it’s not all that hard – just sometimes messy and time consuming. But when has that ever stopped me?
The truth is that if you make just one batch of this recipe, using just one medium baking pumpkin, you won’t spend much time or make all that much of a mess. But if you try to make five batches at a time – which is what four medium baking pumpkins will get you – then it might take some time.
Here’s the basic method:
- Cut open a medium baking pumpkin and remove all seeds and pulp. I found that the seeds were much easier to remove from the pulp than with a larger pumpkin (the type I usually make a jack-o-lantern out of) – which means you can make a quick batch of toasted pumpkin seeds while your pumpkin butter simmers.
- Cut the pumpkin up into fairly large pieces and steam them for 15-25 minutes (depending on how big the pieces are). I used my large stock pot with the pasta strainer (the same one I used to make chicken stock and strain out all of the bones and veggies).
- Remove the pumpkin from the steamer using tongs and allow to cool until you can easily touch it. Then, using a spoon, scrape the steamed flesh away from the skin and put in a food processor.
- Process the pumpkin in batches until it’s all finely pureed (each pumpkin should yield 4 ½ to 5 cups of puree). Then you’re ready to turn it into what I like to call “pumpkin pie in a jar”.
I suppose that you could also roast the pumpkin in order to get that nice caramelized flavor, but that would mean that the pumpkin puree would be much more dry and require the addition of liquid. Some recipes call for the addition of apple cider, which would be super tasty.
Pumpkin butter is probably best used as a tasty spread on toast or bread, but there are a number of other ways to use it as well. Check back soon for a Pumpkin Caramel Apple Tart that we just could not stop eating.
Elizabeth’s Pumpkin Butter
4 ½ cups of homemade pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Zest and juice of one orange
Combine all ingredients in a large pot (for multiple batches I used my enameled Dutch oven) and stir together. Cook on low to medium heat for 30-45 minutes. Increase time by 15-20 minutes for each additional batch. The cooking time can vary depending on how thick you prefer your pumpkin butter. I like mine fairly viscous. Stir the pot frequently – but wear an oven mitt and use a long spoon. The mixture will be very thick and likely will “pop” out of the pot as it bubbles and can easily burn you (something I learned very quickly!).
When the mixture has achieved its desired consistency add it to sterilized canning jars and use a water-bath to seal them. I left my jars in the water bath for at least 25 minutes in order to make the most of the preservation effects of this method.
There are numerous videos and websites out there that explain the process of home canning, but the principles are fairly simple: Place your product in sterilized jars, close with sterilized lids, and then submerge in a simmering pot of water for a prescribed period of time. Much of the air left in the jars will escape in the process and a vacuum seal will form.
Jars can be sterilized in the dish-washer using the heated dry cycle, and lids and other tools can be sterilized in boiling water. Most starter canning kits come with the following:
– Wire rack to be placed on the bottom of the pot (to keep the jars from touching the bottom)
– Jar tongs that are really helpful in retrieving hot jars from boiling water
– Jar funnel and ladle
– Some sort of wide, flat tool that is used to remove excess air from thick food products before canning.
You can learn more about home canning by visiting the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have all sorts of useful information about what foods can be canned using water-bath canning.
Typically you should only use this method for high-acid foods (like tomatoes and fruit jams), but I’ve found that even a low-acid food like pumpkin butter will keep for several months without spoiling after being preserved with water-bath canning. That said, I always recommend following the USDA guidelines to ensure that your food will be safely preserved.
As I’ve become quite a fan of home canning lately, one of my next kitchen purchases will likely be a pressure canner, which will allow me to more safely can low-acid foods (the heat inside a pressure canner can get much higher than boiling water).