December 11, 2010

Seasonal gifting

For those of you who love pumpkin, especially spiced and in the form of pie or bread, brace yourselves for something a little different, something spreadable and just as delicious: pumpkin butter. Maybe my mind is still in November, with November flavors, rather than in December mode, with the shopping and the cookie baking. I'll get into that soon, because, you know, I love to bake a cookie, but the eagerness to get busy with the dough making hasn't quite hit me yet. So in the meantime, a batch of pumpkin butter suites the craving for spices and something sweet, something extra to spread on your toast in the mornings.

It would make a nice gift for foodie friends, or anyone who is a fan of pumpkin, jarred and wrapped with pretty ribbon. Like apple butter, pumpkin butter is thick and works well as a spread for bread or scones or biscuits. It's especially good on toasted raisin pecan bread.

Spiced with ginger and cinnamon and sweetened with a trio of cider, maple syrup, and brown sugar, the butter is rich and complex and so good that you'll wonder why you've never heard of it before or why you waited so long to make it. At least I did. The recipe has been filed away for a couple of years, calling to me every fall with the pumpkins at the markets, and I'm so glad I decided to make this instead of pumpkin bread. It's like pumpkin pie in a spoonful, if you're the type to sneak spoonfuls from the fridge every now and then.

You can use canned pumpkin, but I prefer to make my own pumpkin purée by halving a sugar pumpkin (scraping out and discarding the strings and seeds), placing the cut sides down in a pan, and roasting at 350° until fork tender. Allow the pumpkin halves to cool for a few minutes, then scrape the flesh from the skin and process in a food processor until smooth. I then use a scale to measure out the amount needed. If you prefer to keep things down to a minimum, use canned, either in a 29 ounce can or two 15 ounce cans.

Maple Pumpkin Butter
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, via Parade Magazine

30 oz unsweetened pumpkin purée
¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar
¾ cup unfiltered apple or pear cider
¾ cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Place all ingredients in a large, heavy, ovenproof casserole, and stir to blend. Place the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Lower the heat and, still stirring, cook 5 minutes more.

Cover the casserole, slide it into the oven, and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until the pumpkin butter has thickened and there is no liquid around the sides of the pan, 1 ½ - 2 hours.

Cool the pumpkin butter, then cover and chill. Packed airtight, it will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 ½ pints.

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