Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Orange Heaven

The last time I made something with my own home-grown pumpkin, was on a seashore vacation with my entire family. I made a somewhat complicated assembly of pumpkin-stuffed pasta with ricotta cheese.

There was only one problem... it wasn't very good. In fact, it wasn't good at all. I have to hand it to my family, because they gamely cleaned their plates. The problem? I used a decorative jack o' lantern type pumpkin, instead of one meant for baking.

And special honors to my Dad who graciously held his tongue (his mom/my grandma always made her own homemade pumpkin pie filling, so he knows what a baking pumpkin ought to look like!) while he helped me hack and chop my jack o' lantern in the kitchen while I was making dinner...

Anyway, with that little chapter behind me, I planted some "gourmet pumpkin pie" pumpkins this year with splendid results. The blue ribbon winner from my humble take on the topic, is the Australian heirloom pumpkin, the Jarrahdale. (I learned alot while googling my pumpkin type, by the way. It seems that pumpkins are a staple food for it..) It is the blue/slate-gray pumpkin in the top picture, and I don't have many left because I've busily been roasting them and freezing the puree.

Don't be concerned (as I was) about the blue exterior, the interior is orange heaven. :) Bright orange. Lovely.

And now that I've made my own pumpkin puree, I won't be going back to buying store-bought pumpkin puree again (unless I become bed-ridden or something). And this is definately worth your while....much more product for your effort, than, say, rendering 2 bushels of tomatoes to end up with a measly 3 quarts of sauce.

So simple, here's how:

Cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the cut side down (skin side up) in a baking pan filled with about 1/2"-3/4" water. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until soft (poke with a fork, it ought to feel like a well-done baked potatoe).
Wait for it to cool and run it through the food processor or beat with a mixer, whichever implement you happen to own. And ta-da! You have vibrant, wholesome, home-grown pumpkin puree for pie, bread, soup..I could go on.

And simply freeze in a plastic bag whatever you don't need right now. Most recipes seem to call for 1.5 to 2 cups of pumpkin puree, so those are good amounts to freeze it in, for easy thawing and use later.

Meanwhile, my pumpkin yielded about 8 cups of orange goodness. I used some of it for a pie... I'm not the greatest fan of pumpkin pie (I could merely take it or leave it typically), but this pie was worth seconds. I don't know whether to credit that to the merits and my infatuation of the Jarrahdale I used..or the recipe. At any rate, allow me to share the recipe, from the Mary Janes Farm magazine:

Pumpkin Pie Filling
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Makes one 9" pie
1.5 cups canned or homemade pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 T flour
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup canned evaporated milk
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

  • In a large bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, and spices. Mix in the eggs. Beat in the pumpkin and evaporated milk til smooth.

  • Place your already-prepared pie crust on a baking sheet, pour in the filling, and transfer to the oven.

  • Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 20 minutes. Place a pie ring (I don't have one, so I used aluminum foil) on the crust to prevent overbrowning, and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

  • Cool on a rack. Serve with whipped cream

    PS I didn't use cinnamon or cloves in the recipe, because I was out of those ingredients, and we gave the pie a "9.5" on the tasty scale, so use your own judgement. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pants Fit for a Pirate

This is the back view (picture on the left) of my son's old favorite pair of pants. They are his "gypsy" or "pirate" pants (whichever the situation calls for at the time). He dons these for any occasion: the vet coming out, a traipse over to the grandparents, a trip into town, a horseback ride...

They are too short now. And the black part is "pleather." Yes, "pleather," that mysterious material that substitutes for leather and is made of who-knows-what.

It was past time to sew my gypsy/pirate man some suitable attire. So I made him some striped pants and a tunic. As you can see in the upper right-hand picture, the fellow found it quite acceptable (the picture is taken from a distance, because one must be cautious around pirates.)

So the first outfit that I made was met with so much enthusiasm, that in due time it became evident that a second outfit would be necessary, in order to have the opportunity to wash the first outfit.

Meanwhile, another tunic (picture to the right) was completed, this time with a button. And another pair of pants with a vest. The vest is the crowning article of clothing for our pirate, because his 3 favorite buttons from my button box were included.

So these are the first things I've sewn for our son (to wear..he has lots of quilts I've made him), and I have to say that so far he is the most fun to sew for to date, as he is the most enthusiastic and appreciative (translate: no one else laughs with glee over a present, the way he does).