Eat It With Your Face

Do you like food? Dina likes food. Sometimes she even tries to cook it, with mixed results. These are her gastronomical musings.
Recent Tweets @EatWithFace
Posts tagged "pumpkin"

Hi, my name is Dina, and I’ve been a Pinterest addict for… oh, I don’t know, a while now.

Pinterest is a link-sharing site in which users “pin” images (with attached links) on to different “boards”, or groups of images/links. This can be used for many things - home decor decisions, showcasing designs you like, showing off interesting pictures you’ve found… but by and large, the main use of Pinterest seems to be for stay-at-home mothers sharing links to recipes, craft projects and homeschooling ideas and for other women to plan their weddings. (Which has made me feel compelled to be a one-woman force to weird Pinterest. You all should join me.)

The main reason I joined Pinterest was to create a repository of interesting recipes to try, and it has succeeded in that arena. The other day, my cousin Bri posted a link to a recipe for pumpkin butter. Immediately, my mind went to the many bags of pureed pumpkin sitting in my freezer. I looked over the ingredient list, and lo, I had all the ingredients except for the lemon. Score!

Yesterday afternoon, after an ill-fated but fun day trip to the mountains, we stopped off at the market to buy a lemon. Then I made the questionable decision to cook pumpkin butter standing on a rolled ankle. (I’m feeling it today, let’s just say.)

One thing the recipe doesn’t warn you about is the fact that when your pumpkin gets boiling, it turns into molten pumpkin gloop that will try to fly out of the pot and hit you in the face, which is not exactly a nice sensation. It is also not great for keeping your stovetop clean. However, you’re supposed to cook fruit butters uncovered to allow the water to evaporate off. I tried a method that I had read on another recipe for apple butter - I rested the lid on two wooden skewers. This allowed the steam to escape but kept the splatters (mostly) contained.

Once the pumpkin butter was cooked down, I cooled it off in a cold water bath (I put it in a smaller metal bowl that I floated in a larger Pyrex bowl full of cold water). Once it was lukewarm, I spooned it into a clean spaghetti sauce jar (don’t judge!) and put it in the fridge. (Do note that pumpkin butter needs to be refrigerated - you can’t can it to keep it on the shelf because of the risk of botulism, which is bad.)

After I had put the pumpkin butter in its jar and put it in the fridge, I realized I had forgotten to even add the lemon juice. D’oh! It still tastes wonderful without it, though. Kind of like pumpkin pie without the pie and with the added zing of the apple juice. I think next time I’d make it with dark treacle or molasses - really get that flavor in there!

What can you do with pumpkin butter? Well, it tastes *just fine* eaten off the spoon. ;) You can mix it into yogurt, cottage cheese or ice cream or spread it on bread or toast. You can also use it to replace some of the oil in baking recipes (like The Cook’s Thesaurus suggests with apple butter).

Or eat it off the spoon. I won’t stop you.

I’m not a particularly proficient baker. I can make a delicious meal, but the bread to go with it or a pie for dessert? Forget it. My pie crusts are tough as shoe leather, my cakes taste floury, my brownies never quite cook right in the middle (clearly I need one of those “all edges” pans), my muffins sometimes more closely resemble hockey pucks… there’s a reason I stick to cooking dinner and buying my sweets.

It wasn’t always this way - I remember baking a lot as a teen. I wasn’t the best baker ever, but I wasn’t terrible, either. Maybe I just have a crappy oven, or maybe I lost some confidence somewhere along the way.

There are some things I do bake well, like this pumpkin bread/muffin recipe from The Fresh Loaf. I’m sure half the reason it’s so damn good is the chocolate chips, but it’s also the cinnamon and the pumpkin, I think. They come out so moist and wonderful, it’s worth having to puree your own pumpkin for!

I recently started a new position at work. I quickly noticed that they have a culture of bringing in delicious things to share. So I made some pumpkin bread and brought half a loaf to work with me! While many of my coworkers were wary (due to the reputation pumpkin has over here as a vegetable, not a sweet food), they were quickly won over by the deliciousness. Score!

I always need people to like me. One of my biggest anxieties when starting a new job or meeting a new group of people is “What if they don’t liiiiiike me?” My poor other half has had to hear me whining about it for weeks on end before I started this job. Trying to make people like me with baked goods is a new strategy, but one that seems to be working well for me thus far! (Let’s just hope I haven’t started a precedent. I’ve already had someone request pumpkin pie and… well, I can make the custard pretty well, but let’s not discuss the pie crust issue.)

I love using pumpkin in baked goods. It’s something we do in the States a lot - pumpkin pie only being the most famous. In Australia, pumpkin is used more like a vegetable. It’s put in soups, roasted for salads and quiches, and added to pasta sauces. You would never hear an American kid go “ew, pumpkin!” because we so associate it with dessert. That’s not the case here at all. I love the vegetable version of pumpkin, but I also love a good pumpkin muffin or pumpkin bread from time to time.

Since Australians don’t really do the sweet pumpkin thing so much, when I want to make pumpkin-containing baked goods, I have to start with a pumpkin and make my own puree rather than buying it in a can. I think this is both a blessing and a curse. The canned stuff is probably more expensive and tends to contain fillers and/or sweeteners. Homemade pumpkin puree is just… pumpkin. On the other hand, the process is… time-consuming. To say the least. Usually when I do this I use one of those cute little Japanese pumpkins that look like pumpkin-shaped acorn squashes. However, this weekend all the ones at the greengrocer were in really rough shape. So I bought a Queensland Blue instead. I figured, I’ll have extra to freeze! It’ll be great!

Oh me.

First, I had to cut it. That proved more problematic than I expected. Queensland Blues are very large and have thick skin and a lot of flesh. I was armed only with a chef’s knife and my weak little arms. The ensuing battle was epic, with me sending out guttural grunts from time to time that made the other half come out of the computer room and tell me not to hurt myself. The knife even got stuck a couple of times. But in the end, I prevailed, cutting it into eighths. It became apparent that my normal roasting pan wasn’t going to be big enough for all the pieces. Then I realized I would actually need both my roasting pans. I put a bit of water in the bottom of both pans (helps them steam up nicely) and put them in the oven (at 170C fan-forced, for those of you playing at home) to let them roast.

Since I’m used to the cute little Japanese pumpkins, I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take for the thick Queensland Blue pieces to roast. While it takes the smaller pieces about 45 minutes, it took the smaller pan on the top rack an hour and a half and the larger rack on the bottom rack more like two. (I wish I’d thought to take an “after” picture - the pumpkin pieces looked like they had lost a fight with a dragon.) I decided that making pumpkin muffins will have to wait and instead concentrated on getting the pumpkin pureed before bedtime.

The next part was an even bigger pain because I have a tiny two-cup food processor (should have gone for the immersion blender, but oh well). I lost count of how many batches I had to do. I did twice forget to put the blade back in before packing the bowl with pumpkin. That was fun. I made the other half package up the pumpkin while finishing up the pureeing process. She put it in freezer bags in one-cup portions, and then chucked those in the freezer. Sorted.

Thank goodness my food processor is small enough to fit in the dishwasher easily!