I don't know what made me think of pumpkin butter, nor can I think of when I first (or last) had it. Although like most fruit butters its roots are almost certainly Southern, I'm pretty sure I had it growing up in the Northeast. All I know is that I love all things pumpkin-y and squash-y, and the idea of having a jar or two of pumpkin butter around just sounded like a very nice thing indeed.
I cruised the intertent, and ultimately settled on a pumpkin buttter recipe on About.com. Many recipes out there called for canned pumpkin, which struck me as being really beside the point. I prefer to start with whole, unprocessed foods, and wanted to make this from actual pumpkin. This recipe also was relatively simple, and had few ingredients. It did call for pumpkin pie spice, which I don't stock, so I used a modified version of another About.com recipe for pumpkin pie spice, which used spices I had on hand. We doubled the recipes to make 12 half-pint jars.
We used sugar pumpkins, which in my mind are the only true cooking pumpkins. They have a pronounced pumpkin flavor and are not too fibrous. Carving pumpkins are best left for that purpose only. I suppose this recipe would translate well with butternut, Hokkaido or kabocha squash, as they too have an innate sweetness.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this process was watching the transformation of the pumpkin from chunks of soft, yellow flesh, to a thick paste, to a smooth purée and finally a glossy, rich, orange butter. And hooboy, does it smell good.
I will not go into detail on how to can. It's more information than I can post here. I recommend two books: The Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving, by the USDA, and Canning & Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward. They break it down for you, and provide a wealth of recipes as well. All I will say is that the dishwasher is your best friend. We used it to sanitize the jars, and when you're dealing with several dozen, it makes short work of it.
(Photo: DPaul Brown)
4 c. cooked and mashed pumpkin (see below)
1 (2-ounce) package powdered pectin
4-1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (see below)
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
Prepare the pumpkin:
Two medium size sugar pumpkins (about 4.5-5 lbs total) should generate enough meat for this recipe. Cut the pumpkins in half from pole to pole with a sharp, heavy knife. With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and goo in the middle and discard (or save the seeds if you wish to roast them). Lay the pumpkin halves cut-side-down on two half sheet pans that have been lightly oiled or are lined with a non-stick surface like Silpat or Reynolds Release. Bake at 350ºF until the flesh is soft and a paring knife pierces through it easily, 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the flesh. Remove and allow to cool. When cool enough to touch, scoop the flesh into a large bowl and discard the skins. At the least, mash the pumpkin meat with a masher, or better yet pass through a sieve or a food mill for a smoother, more even texture. Set aside until ready to prepare the butter.
Prepare the pumpkin pie spice:
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice or cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
Stir to combine.
Prepare the pumpkin butter:
Place pumpkin meat in a heavy kettle. Stir in pectin. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar, pumpkin pie spice and butter. Continue stirring and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard exactly 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir 5 minutes.
Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Adjust caps according to manufacture's directions. Process 12 minutes in boiling water bath. Remove and allow to cool. After cooling, check seals. (Since making this, I've learned that the USDA does not recommend home canning of pumpkin puree by any method. Pumpkin is a low-acid food, and the puree is very dense, so even pressure canning can potentially not heat the product sufficiently to kill botulism spores. This can be frozen, to great effect, however.)
Makes 6 (1/2-pint) jars
Related: Ariel at Inside Voice got inspired and whipped up a batch of her own. SFist finds the recipe "drool-worthy." Elise picks up this recipe in her hyper-comprehensive roundup of pumpkin pleasures. Erin would make pumpkin butter of her own, if only she were going to cook.