We’ve been getting really lovely winter squash from the farm. I have to admit, I was getting a little worried that some of them might start to spoil before I could use them. In particular, we were given a pie pumpkin. I have two kitchen phobias. One is yeast bread (I kill yeast, pretty much consistently) and pie crust (my mom is a genius but that gene did not pass to me). The second is pie crust. I am a wreck at pie crust. I’ve tried a few times and usually my crusts don’t stick together well or they’re super tough. Even when I use “instant” crust out of a box, my results are pretty sketchy. I leave pie to other people or stick with my strengths — graham cracker crust pies.
So that pumpkin was sitting on my dining room table, taunting me. I initially thought maybe I could take it to my mom on Thanksgiving, but then again, I worried about it spoiling in the heat of my living room. I finally decided I needed to do something with it. If nothing else, I thought I’d bake it and then freeze it for inspiration later.
Happily, every newsletter that comes by way has a pumpkin recipe. Lattes, cakes, puddings, risottos, lasagna, etc. You name it, you can make it with pumpkin or some kind of winter squash. Finally, the recipe I was looking for came across my computer screen: pumpkin butter. Now here’s something I can get behind. Slathered on buttered toast, pumpkin butter is one of the rare “jams” I can eat heartily and thickly.
Why not, I thought? It basically followed the premise of making tomato paste — roast the mixture in the oven for a long time until most of the water evaporates and the fruit begins to caramelize.
The recipe, on the food52 site, was super easy but just took a lot of time. The first step was roasting the pumpkin itself in the oven to that the soft flesh could be scraped out of the skin. So, Friday night when I was home from having dinner with a friend, I put the pumpkin into the oven for close to an hour. Just before bed, I scraped out the flesh and put it into the refrigerator for the next day.
The recipe basically calls for mixing the pumpkin flesh with butter and spices and some brown sugar. It says that if you don’t think it’s smooth enough when you’re done cooking it, you can put it in the food processor to smooth out. To me, this was backward. Why wait until the end of the recipe to make it smooth? Instead, I put the cooked pumpkin in my food processor in two batches with the sliced butter and let the food processor smooth out the pumpkin and mix in the butter. Voila! Then it was an easy task to mix in the spices and the brown sugar and put the whole mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
And then it’s just time. You bake the mixture at 350 degrees for about 1.5 hours. I stirred every 20 minutes — you bring the caramelized bits from the top and edges into the mixture and then it keeps going. Over time, it goes from a lovely orange speckled with butter to ever deepening shades of orange-brown until it’s finally a dark, rich brown color. It’s not acidic enough to can it so you have to eat it immediately or freeze it like freezer jam for enjoyment later.
What I liked about it is the pumpkin’s flavor still comes through. It’s not too sweet or too spicy to mask the vegetables deliciousness. And it’s awesome with butter on my toast!