It all started with something we do every year around this time: carving jack o’lanterns with the kids. As I watched all of the pieces of pumpkin get trimmed off, and the inner flesh of the pumpkins get scraped clean to rid them of any “goop,” I thought something I find myself thinking more often as time goes on:
“Hm. I bet I can do something with that.”
It’s a sickness. My family throws stuff out in secret, because they know I’ll utter those dreaded words and we’ll have yet another jar/egg carton/worn out piece of clothing/piece of wood/peanut butter jar cluttering up the closets instead of out in the recycling bin or trash, where normal people put them.
Anyway, after we cleaned out the pumpkins and separated the seed from the flesh and other goop, I bagged up as much of the nice, firm flesh as I could, setting the stringy, wet parts aside to compost later. From one large ‘Howden’ pumpkin and a ‘Galeux d’Eysines,’ I scrounged two gallon-size containers of flesh.
Oh, wait. Cue pic of cute kid and her pumpkin:
So what I used were all of those pieces of pumpkin that usually get wasted when you’re carving a jack o lantern: the flesh from the pieces you cut out for eyes and noses, along with the flesh you scrape out of the pumpkin while you’re cleaning it out. I separated the seeds to roast (yum) and put everything else into containers and stored it in the fridge until I was ready to make my pumpkin butter.
Most sources will tell you not to try to make pumpkin butter or pumpkin puree with a jack o lantern pumpkin, because they tend to be more watery than pie pumpkins. And if I were making pie filling, I’d probably go with the pie pumpkin. But for pumpkin butter, which you’re going to be reducing anyway, why not? (If you want to use a pie pumpkin for this, just roast it in the oven or steam it in your microwave, then proceed with the rest of the steps from there.)
How To Make Pumpkin Butter
So, I had my pieces of pumpkin, and I needed to cook them first to make a pumpkin puree. The microwave is fast, so I used that, but you could also roast your pumpkin until tender. I cooked three batches of pumpkin in a glass pie plate in the microwave for about ten minutes each batch. You’ll be surprised by how much liquid comes out of the pumpkin. You don’t want that liquid– use a slotted spoon or strainer to get the pumpkin pieces out of all of that liquid. It will make the cooking process take a lot longer if you leave it.
Once you have all of your pumpkin cooked, it’s time to puree it. I used a blender, but if you have one of those immersion blenders, that would be great too. Puree the pumpkin until it looks like baby food.
Dump your pumpkin puree into a crock pot set to “low.” Now it’s time to make it taste awesome. I digressed a little from the original recipe I found, mostly because I wanted that pumpkin pie flavor to my pumpkin butter, and I didn’t want it so cloyingly sweet. So to my 4 quarts of pumpkin puree, I added 1 cup of regular sugar, one cup of light brown sugar, and four tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice. Mix it up and prepare to wait while your house starts to smell delicious.
You’ll want to add either a splatter screen, or a lid set slightly askew (to allow for evaporation) on this to prevent the pumpkin from splattering everything around it. I left my pumpkin butter on low overnight (9 hours). The next morning, my pumpkin butter looked like this:
Oh, yes. Dark orange-brown, creamy looking, and smelling like Thanksgiving. My pumpkin butter reduced by over a pint, to give you an idea of how much this thickens up with time. To make sure it was really, really smooth, I pureed it all one more time before putting it in jars.
Now, the one thing about pumpkin butter is that you can’t really preserve it in a hot water canner or anything like that. But, it will keep for two to three weeks in your refrigerator, and will freeze for six months. Trust me, it won’t be around that long, anyway!
Using Your Pumpkin Butter
So, what can you do with your delicious pumpkin butter?
–Eat it on toast or croissants
–Top pancakes with it
–Add it to muffin or cake batters in place of the oil
–Dollop it on pound cake or angel cake
–Eat it straight out of the jar (Yes, really.)
This is a delicious, easy recipe that (in this case) took something that I would have tossed into the compost pile and turned it into a yummy autumnal treat instead. I hope you try it!