Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Butter

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 I have pumpkin for days over here. We bought 5 pumpkins when they were on sale for Halloween and then the kids brought home one each from school, that was donated by a local farmer. At first I was excited by all the pumpkin baking and cooking possibilities. I cut up 3 of the pumpkins, roasted the seeds as well as the flesh and then pureed the pumpkin to use in my recipes. I used some for Carla Hall's Pumpkin Chocolate Cake (which was amazing!). Then I used 2 cups for some pumpkin whoopie pies that I brought to this month's PTO meeting (recipe to be posted soon) but still had 3 1/2 cups left over. What to do, what to do?
   I had recently heard about pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and they really peaked my interest. But if you don't know by now, I really enjoy a chewy cookie. And baked goods made with pumpkin always end up more cakey than chewy. So, I was on a hunt. I found a few recipes that looked promising, but there was one that really stood out. The only catch was that they didn't call for just pumpkin puree. No, they called for pumpkin butter.
   That was all it took. My remaining pumpkin puree (that I have made already - remember I still have 4 pumpkins left) was destined for pumpkin butter. I did a little research online and found that all pumpkin butter consists of is sugar, pumpkin, spices and liquid. Easy peasy. 

Here's what I did.
3 1/2 cups of homemade pumpkin puree went into a pot with 1/2 cup of white sugar,

and 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar.

Then I added 1 cup of 100% apple juice,

1 Tbsp of pumpkin pie spice (which is something that I never used to have on hand, but the pumpkin cake I made called for it in both the cake and the filling, so I went out and bought a jar.)

It all got stirred together and cooked over medium heat.

It was at this point that I tasted the mixture and decided it could benefit from a dash of salt. (Maybe 1/4 tsp?)

When the mixture came up to a boil I turned down the heat to low and put a splatter screen on top. This mixture is thick, and it can really spit at you when it's bubbling. Be careful! 

Stir it frequently, and cook for about 30 minutes and this is what you end up with. It's dark in color and thick enough that you can easily push it aside to see the bottom of the pot.

I put two cups of the pumpkin butter into jars. (I read that pumpkin butter is not safe for canning - although I can't imagine why - so keep it in the fridge.) 

 I took this shot because I wanted you to see the pretty and twisted stem on the pumpkin on the left. (I wanted to say "pretty twisted" but I didn't think that would convey the same meaning I was shooting for.) Isn't nature beautiful? OK tangent over.

It really sets up nice and thick. (This is the nearly 2 cups I had left over after I jarred the first 2 cups.)

This is what you really want to see. It spreads so nicely onto toast, muffins or any bread product. I'm sure it would also be a good topping for cheesecake and ice cream. It tastes like pumpkin pie, so you could put it on almost anything and my son would eat it. ;) Me - I'm going to make those cookies. (Blog post soon to follow.)
Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Butter

3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1 cup 100% apple juice
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pot and cook over medium heat until boiling. Turn down the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 30 minutes. It will darken in color and become more jam-like. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about 5 cups.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Persimmon Pudding (Persimmon & Date Pudding Cake)

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My friend graciously gave me her Abundant Harvest box this month. It was full of organic produce from local farmers. Among all the goodies were these persimmons. I had never seen persimmons, let alone eaten one before. Well, the note that came with them in the box said that they need to ripen to almost mush - which would take a couple weeks on the counter. So, the hubby washed them set them aside and then I basically forgot about them for a while.
   The other day I noticed that they were all getting very soft, so it was time for me to make them into something. When my mother saw them she said, "Ooh, Persimmons! You can make Persimmon Pudding!" I asked if that was anything like my grandma's Apple Pudding Cake (which is to die for, and I make it every fall/winter so keep an eye out for it in the near future). She said that it was similar, so I was sold.
   I had her dig out the recipe, that it at least 30 years old, probably older, and give it to me. I did change it a bit (I couldn't help myself). I reduced the sugar, used dates exclusively (the original recipe called for raisins, or a mixture of raisins and dates) and I added vanilla to the sauce. It turned out wonderfully. The cake is moist and has a wonderful texture and flavor. You'd never guess it was egg free (and nearly fat free)! It's kind of a magic cake (like the Almond Butter Blondies). It goes into the oven orange and a little strange looking, and you don't think that the mixture will turn into a cake until it comes out all brown and fluffy and delicious.
   I should note that I tasted the persimmons raw, before I added them to the cake mixture and they weren't bad. They are a little sweet and have almost a date flavor (that's probably why the original recipe called for raisins or dates). If I come across these beauties in the future I may try experimenting with other recipes (persimmon bread, persimmon cookies, persimmon bars, etc.) but for now this Persimmon Pudding is a definite keeper!

These are the persimmons. See how they look very soft and almost too ripe? They are perfect!

Just cut off the tops (think of this like a big strawberry.) I apologize for the poor lighting. This getting dark @ 4:30 thing is killing my blogging.

The next step is to peel the persimmons. The peel comes off very easily, but because the flesh is so soft, this will make a mess!

When the fruit is peeled, you can dice it up but it honestly will just fall apart into mush. (Which is good. You want it to go through the whole cake. There's hardly any fat in this recipe, so you get your moisture from the fruit.)

You'll need 2 cups of the pulp. (This was 5 of persimmons. I only had the runt/yellow one left over.)

Now that the cutting board is all goopy with the persimmon pulp this is a good time to start on the dates. You'll need 2 cups of pitted dates.

I just slice them into rings and then cut the rings in half to make small pieces. The method doesn't matter, just make sure they get chopped pretty small. (Unfortunately the dates are too sticky to chop in the food processor. Just suck it up and use a knife. It will take a while, but I promise it will be worth it.)

5 minutes later, here are my chopped dates.

In a medium to large mixing bowl, add the persimmon pulp and some sugar.

Next comes the salt,

baking powder,

and baking soda.

I mixed those all together and added the vanilla,

the oil,

and the flour.

I whisked in the flour slightly and then added in the milk. (Honestly, this recipe was written as a dump cake, so you could probably just dump it all into the bowl, mix well and be done with it.)

Last, but not least comes the date

and the walnuts. 2 cups . . .

finely chopped please.

Everyone into the pool. (Sorry the lighting turned out so weird. As you all know, I'm not a professional anything. And definitely not a photographer. I'm sure a smarter person than I would be able to tell you why my mixture looks neon, but that person is not me. Just stay with me during the next couple of shots and it will get better.)

Mix it together, making sure to scrape down the sides.

When it's all mixed together,

pour it into a greased 9x13 baking dish. (See I told you the color would correct itself.)

Even it out and put it into a 350F oven. The recipe states "30-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean." Mine only took 30.

This is what it looks like when it's all done..

Now it's time for the sauce. Into a sauce pot, goes some sugar,


butter (I say about 5 Tbsp. The original recipe said it should be "the size of an egg" This made me laugh.)

and the juice of one lemon. Did you notice this is a lime? Yeah, I went to my fridge and found only limes so that is what I used. It will be fine.

Just juice it 'till there's nothing left.

About 1 Tbsp

water (the recipe said hot water, but I used cold with no repercussions).

Whisk it all together and cook over medium heat.

When everything is combined and it starts to bubble, stir it occasionally and keep an eye on it. (Figuratively of course. I don't want you to get burned!)

About about 4 minutes the sauce will get thick, a little clearer and look like gel.

Turn off the heat and add some vanilla.

Stir it in and this is what you have.

Nothing left to do but spoon the sauce over the cake and consume.

This cake is perfectly delicious like this . . . but a little naked, don't you think?

A dollop up whipped cream will dress it up a little.

That's better. Now consume, smile and tell me how wonderful it is. :)
Here's the recipe:

 Persimmon Pudding (Persimmon & Date Pudding Cake)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
2 cups persimmon pulp
2 cups walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups pitted and chopped dates
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp veg. oil

1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup water
5 Tbsp butter
juice of one lemon (or lime), about 1 Tbsp

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together all the ingredients for the cake and pour into a greased 9x13 glass baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Make the sauce.
For the sauce, whisk together the flour and sugar in a sauce pot until there are no flour lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium to medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When the mixture bubbles keep an eye on it. After about 4 minutes it will look thick like gel and the color will be a little more clear. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla. Spoon over each pudding cake piece as it is served. 
Top with cream (whipped or not) if desired.