Posts Tagged 'Thanksgiving'

Canning Pumpkin and Winter Squash

One of the great things about holidays with specific foods is that they go on sale as soon as the holiday is over. That’s prime purchasing time for canners. With Halloween over and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, retailers are desperate to unload their inventory of pumpkins. I even saw a post on line of a grocer that was giving then away to avoid filling their dumpsters.

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Canning Pumpkin or Winter Squash
Pumpkins or Squash
Water

I started by placing my pumpkin on its side and then smacking the stem causing it to break off at the base. Using a large knife, and keeping your fingers out of the way, slice the pumpkin in half along the stem.

20121114-103609.jpgUse a spoon and scrape out the seeds and membrane from inside.

20121114-103701.jpgCut each half in half again.

Pumpkin in a low acid vegetable and can not be water bath processed. It’s not possible. Don’t try it. It has to be processed in a pressure canner. And, you can not purée it like you buy in the store. It has to be cubed. Puréed pumpkin is too dense for the heat of a home canner to penetrate as deep as it needs to. So the bad news is you’ll need to have or buy a pressure canner bathe good news that pressure cookers are awesome and useful in many ways. Since you need a pressure cooker I’m going to include my method of peeling which includes a pressure cooker. There are other ways to do this (peeling, roasting, steaming) but I’m sticking to one method because it was so easy.

Place your grate/rack in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Add water to just barely touch the grate. Start layering your pumpkin quarters in the pot. I was able to fit 4 pie pumpkins (16 quarters) in my Presto 23qt at a time. Put your lid on and lock it. But don’t cap the vent. Turn your heat on high. As soon as steam comes out of the vent put your weight on. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Keep an eye in the pressure, but mine never crossed 12. After ten minutes remove the pot from the heat. (*NEVER DO THIS IF YOU ARE PROCESSING JARS*) Put your canner in the sink and slowly start running water over it. As it starts to cool you can j crease the water. This rapidly cools the pot and makes the pressure drop. Please be familiar with your pressure canner and how it works. Don’t deviate from the manufacturer’s guidelines. After the pressure drop to zero carefully remove the weight. If its done venting entirely, carefully remove the lid. Steam will escape. Be cautious.

Inside you will find perfectly cooked pumpkin.

20121114-105432.jpgI shouldn’t even have to say this, but the pumpkin is hot. Really hot. Really really hot. So use spatulas, tongs, spoons, and or pot holders to remove the segments. When you do, you’ll find that the skin sloughs right off the flesh.

20121114-105719.jpgThe flesh should be softened, but firm enough to hold its shape. The first batch I made I let go slightly long because I was nervous. The flesh got a bit over done and was very soft. Again, you don’t want purée, you want cubes. A bit under done is better than a bit over since you’ll be cooking it another 75 minutes shortly.

Using a large knife cut the pumpkin in to approximate 1″ cubes. I used a large knife to avoid having to hold the hot pumpkin with my other hand.

20121114-110240.jpgUse you ladle and funnel and fill your jars to the 1″ headspace. Then top with boiling water. A tea pot is great here, or just a large pot if boiling water.

20121114-110455.jpgYou can see which jar had the softer pumpkin and which had the firmer. As long as it doesn’t purée you’re fine. The water will carry the heat between the cubes.

20121114-110613.jpgClean lids, band, finger tight. Rinse out your pressure canned and add the required amount if water. Usually only a few inches. Add your jars and process according to the guidelines below:

20121114-111210.jpgAfter the proper time turn off the heat and walk away. Do not move, cool, or attempt to open the canner. Once the pressure drops to zero, remove the weight. Once the inside is ventilated remove the lid. Allow the jars to sit for another 5 minutes or so to acclimate to the cooler temp. This entire process removes the risk of syphoning.

Remove the jars and place on a towel or wood cutting board. I love pressure canned items because they continue to boil well after removal. You can see the bubbles here.

20121114-111553.jpgyour finished product will be slightly darker and more on the brown end of the burnt orange spectrum.

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20121114-111708.jpgsubstitute this pumpkin for any fresh or canned pumpkin recipes. I haven’t tried using it in pumpkin bread that calls for greatest fresh pumpkin yet, but I plan to. The first time I used it I found it holds a lot of water. Next time I’ll drain it in a colander before using.

Now you can enjoy pumpkin pie or cookies, bread or purée in March or any other time you feel like it.

Happy canning.

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Pumpkin Everything!

Is there any doubt that this is the best time if the year for flavors? Every part of the last 3 months is fantastic. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, pumpkin, pecans, peppermint, yams, caramel, cranberries, pears, apples, and raisins.

I even decided to spend a couple bucks on supplies and throw together an autumn wreath for our door, a first for me.

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Back to the matter at hand. As a result of cooking up two and canning six pumpkin I had a huge bowl of pumpkin guts and seeds. I knew I wanted to keep the seeds. But the idea of spending an hour picking those slimy buggers out was not appealing. As I started taking the seeds out I tossed then in a bowl if water to rinse them off. That’s when I noticed that the seeds all floated.

So I filled a stock pot half way with water. I grabbed a large handful of pumpkin guts, held them under water loosely, and vigorously moved my hand. Similar to the agitation of a washing machine. And sure enough, all the seeds popped to the top.

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You can see that some of the pumpkin is floating as well. But those chunks were easy to grab and pull out. Most of the really stringy stuff sent to the bottom. Then I just used a slotted spoon to skim the very surface to grab the seeds out.

I’m sure I’m not the first person in history to figure this out. But it was a first time for me. And it definitely made things much easier. I was able to remove the seeds from eight pumpkins in less than 10 minutes.

I decided to make four varieties if roasted pumpkin seeds.

The procedure for each is the same.

Rinse the seeds off to remove all of the pumpkin.

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Place the seeds in a bowl and drizzle with approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Use a spoon to gently toss the seeds to coat them with oil. Then sprinkle on whatever topping you’re using as you continue to stir.

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Spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast at 350° for 30 minutes. Use a spatula to move the seeds around once or twice during roasting to ensure that they are all evenly cooked. Cool and enjoy.

Pumpkin Pie Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
2T sugar
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1/2t allspice
1/4t ginger

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Old Bay Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
1T Old Bay Seasoning

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Cocoa Cayenne Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
2T sugar
2t cocoa powder
1/2t cayenne pepper

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Spicy Curry Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
1t curry powder
1t kosher salt

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Pumpkins stuffed with sausage

My wife has got to be the biggest fan of squash in the world. We’ve always got at least 3 varieties on the counter and she eats it twice a week. When the little pie/baking pumpkins came out she started looking for a savory way to serve them.

Stuffed Pumpkins with Sausage

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2 pie pumpkins
6 Italian sausages
1 leek
2 medium apples
1 jar canned mushrooms (or 2 lbs fresh)
2 cups roughly chopped kale
1/4 C sherry
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, marjoram

Drop your sausages in a pan of water and boil to cook through.

Clean your pumpkins. Then cut a hole around them, the same way you would if you were going to carve it. The use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and punkin’ guts. But be sure to save them for roasting later.

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Drop 1/4t marjoram and salt and 1/8t pepper and garlic powder in to the cavity.

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Put the lid back on and shake to distribute. Photos now include real shaking action!

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Set the pumpkins aside. Chop your apple and leek in to 1/2″ pieces.

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Sautéed the apple and leek in some olive oil until they begin to become translucent. If you are using fresh mushrooms add them at the beginning to cook down. If you are using home or commercially canned add then after to prevent over cooking.

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Add sherry to the pan and cook until the liquid reduces. Chop your sausages in to pieces and toss it in the mix. Cook everything until its heated throughout and the flavors have mingled. Salt and pepper to taste (most sausages are already pretty salty).

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Open your pumpkins and stuff with the filling. Or, fill with the stuffing. Your choice.

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Put those bad boys in a roasting pan and spray with olive oil. Or, if you need to, just drizzle and rub them all over. Pop em in the oven for one hour.

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After an hour the skin is nice and dark.

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Carefully (they’re hot) remove the top and add 1 cup of kale to the pumpkin. Replace the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. This is a great time to set the table. By the time you’re ready to eat the kale should be perfectly steamed.

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To serve we removed the lid, and then cut the pumpkin into 6 pieces. We tossed the stuffing together to mix in the kale. Then served one slice of pumpkin with stuffing on it.

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I found the pumpkin to be slightly under seasoned so I upped the salt in this recipe. My only complaint was that it didn’t feel like a whole meal (despite containing meat, veggies, and starch). Next time I’d serve it as a side to roast chicken with Brussels sprouts or something in the side. The flavors, however, were fantastic. Definitely a fall side dish to make again.

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce

My wife makes a killer cranberry sauce. The recipe is an amalgam of various recipes that she’s tried or read over the last couple years. We’ve served this the last two Thanksgivings, and it’s a complete hit.

After the Thanksgiving and Christmas season cranberries start going on sale as vendors just want to offload what they have left. Dess found them on sale for $1.49 a bag (half of what they were the week before Thanksgiving) and grabbed 7 of them.

Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce:
Multiplied x 7 for this recipe

1 – 12oz bag of Cranberries
3/4 C Red Wine (Cabernet)
1/4 C Triple Sec
1 C Brown Sugar
1/2 t Ground Ginger
1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t Allspice Berries
2 T Candied Ginger (chopped)
1 T Orange Zest
1 Cinnamon Stick

Combine the wine, Triple Sec, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries.

Place the Cinnamon stick and the Allspice Berries in cheesecloth and tie it off.

Add the spice bundle to the cranberries and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the cranberries pop and the liquid thickens. Sometimes we’re left with a couple dozen unpopped cranberries floating on top, and that’s fine.

Remove the spice bundle, stir in the crystalized ginger, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and the orange zest.

Let the mixture simmer another 2-3 minutes and then ladle in to jars.

Lets talk about jars for a seconds. A friend asked me to touch on preparing jars, reusing jars, cleaning jars, etc. When I open the case I take the jars out and remove the lids and rings. The jars get washed, by hand or in a dishwasher. the rings get set aside. Then, before I start my recipe, I fill my canning pot/pressure cooker with water and place the jars in there. As the water heats to boil, the jars heat with it. I let the jars boil until I’m ready to start filling them. I also throw my ladle and funnel in the mix too.

When I’m ready I pull the jars out (slowly and carefully, since they are full of boiling water) and gently tip out the water back in to the pot. I place the lids in a bowl and use the water from the 1st jar I remove to cover the lids with now, just under boiling temp water. This warms the adhesive compound on the lids and gets a better seal going.

Fill the jars with the sauce and leave 1/2″ head space. Put the lids and rings on and finger tighten the rings. Remember, air needs to escape from the jar to form the eventual vacuum seal needed for preservation.

Place the filled jars in your water bath canner, making sure that the jars have at least 2 inches of water covering them. Process for 15 minutes for pints.

Using 7 bags of cranberries this made 11 pints of sauce. And now we can enjoy cranberry sauce year round.



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