As we speak I am attending the Food and Wine Writers Workshop south of here. Modern technology allows me to be in 2 places at once and tell you about what I was up to last Sunday and inform you about my latest foray into canning as well as have wine tastings, market tours and gourmet dinners all at the same time. I will tell you all about the workshop when I get back.
In the meantime a few weeks ago I received an e-mail from the Loblaw's Corporation to participate in their Grown Close to Home campaign. They asked me if I would like to receive a Bernardin Canning kit to highlight our local Canadian produce. Let me think about that for a nano-second. YES was my unequivocal reply!!!!What arrived was a rather large package with President's Choice measuring cups, organic sugar, white vinegar, a Bernadin Home Canning Kit featuring a 21-quart canner, an instructional DVD and a gift card to purchase local produce. I hesitate to tell you how many years it has been since I canned from my own home grown produce but I was more than ready to get started again. Thanks Loblaws and Bernadin!!
The 100-Mile Diet, originally a book about the challenges of living on food grown within 100 miles of home, is now shorthand for a movement that advocates environmentally responsible food consumption. The country’s biggest food retailers – with Loblaw Co. Ltd. leading the charge – have taken notice.
"How come my local grower can't sell their produce in my local store?'"At this time of year, local produce is in the spotlight as the harvest season enters its peak period and consumers complain that too little local produce seems to make its way into large supermarkets such as Loblaw. The "goal," Loblaw says, is to be "100 per cent local in season," but Loblaw can't always meet that target. It's partly a problem of supply. Even a stellar strawberry season wouldn't fill all of Loblaw's 1,000 stores across the country and the past two summers have been cool and wet. As well, the supermarket chain sets certain standards for safety reasons not all farmers can meet. For example, fruit must be "pre-cooled" as soon as it's picked to prolong its shelf life. Not all farmers can afford the refrigeration facilities. The bottom line is that Loblaw's is working on a solution which is certainly commendable. Last year it achieved a record breaking goal during the key harvest season by raising awareness with its "Grown Close to Home" program.
I had my heart set on making pumpkin butter as my first seasonal canning project. Thanks to Loblaw's and Bernadin I was able to achieve excellent results. Pumpkin butter has been called pumpkin pie in a jar, and though it can’t technically be called fruit butter because pumpkin is a winter squash, it falls into this class of preserved spreads. It is essentially cooked pumpkin that is pureed and combined with sugar and spices common in pumpkin pie, like warm cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. It has a very thick texture which is similar to butter. Many people find it truly delicious and so different from the numerous fruit spreads they might ordinarily use. It is excellent on a variety of toasts or breads, and some people enjoy it on granola or as a topping to yogurt. Fans of pumpkin ice cream may revel in topping vanilla ice cream with a dollop of pumpkin butter. I like to mix it with some creamed cheese and slather it on warm toast for a delicious snack.You can probably find many recipes that call for pumpkin butter as well such as a pumpkin cheesecake, layer cakes, muffins, waffles and perhaps even thumbprint cookies can be made that have their centers filled with this spicy spread.
A word of warning the cooking process of pumpkin butter changes the colour to a deep, dark, rich hue of orange or brown. There are some uncooked recipes of pumpkin butter that retain their brilliant orange colour but these cannot be canned and need to be kept in the refrigerator and used as quickly as possible. When planning to can pumpkin butter look specifically for those recipes with canning instructions. Some recipes are very low acid and won’t work well if cans are to be kept outside of the fridge. There is apparently much debate over the safety of canning pumpkin butter in a hot water bath. I'm of the opinion that it is fine and has been done for centuries, but for extra safety, even after using tons of sugar, I made a little room in my refrigerator.
Pumpkin choice is another essential factor in making pumpkin butter. You should select pie pumpkins, with sugar pie pumpkins being one of the best choices. These are smaller and weigh about three to five pounds (1.36-2.27 kg). Though some people use larger jack o’lantern style pumpkins, they are not as sweet or flavourful and texture can be a problem. For large recipes though, it can take several sugar pie pumpkins to get enough cooked pumpkin, so you can turn to canned pumpkin instead, which is fine.
This recipe makes a perfect holiday gift. The traditional spicing and hint of maple sweetness will enhance old-fashioned holiday meals. For food safety reasons as mentioned, do NOT reduce the amount of sugar or syrup unless you plan to store the results in the refrigerator. For complete canning instructions and tips visit the Bernadin web site and preserve the summer season in jars.
**Harvest Pumpkin Butter**
6 cups cooked sugar pumpkin puree (see instructions below; or two 29-ounce cans pumpkin
2 cups pure maple syrup (see note)
2 cups light corn syrup (see note)
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (see note)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Put the pumpkin puree in a large, heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum pot; stir in the maple syrup and corn syrup. When these are thoroughly combined, add the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, mace and vanilla. Set the pot over medium-high heat. When it begins to boil, partially cover it; the mixture will spatter profusely. (Highly recommended!!!) Cook at a slow boil, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until it thickens and turns a darker colour, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash 5 pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs. Ladle the hot butter into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes (20 minutes at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet).
NOTE: To make pumpkin puree: Either bake or broil the fruit. Bake whole pumpkins on a cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven until softened and collapsed. (Be sure to poke holes in them first, or they will explode in the oven.) Scoop the pulp away from the peel. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor. Or, boil peeled chunks of fresh pumpkin until softened, then puree the cooked pulp.
Males 5 pints
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