Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin butter is one of my favorite ways to use up the pumpkins we grow in our garden. Yes, we grow some big Jack 'O Lantern pumpkins, but I also grow some of the small sweet pie pumpkins ever year. This year I tried an interesting pumpkin with netted skin called Winter Luxury.

The Winter Luxury cultivar turned out to be a real winner--nice pumpkin flavor, even better than the New England Pie pumpkins that I usually grow. And they have a very soft, thin skin which made processing them MUCH easier than the standard orange pie pumpkin.

I don't have photos of the process of making the pumpkin butter--I completely forgot to take any! But making pumpkin butter from scratch is really easy if you use your slow cooker.

First, cut your pumpkins in half. For a modern large oval slow cooker, you'll want 4-5 small pie pumpkins. Scoop out the seeds and keep them for roasting or planting again next year, or feed them to the chickens. If you put them in your compost heap, be prepared for pumpkins to sprout there next year! Then cut the halves in half again and peel them. I use an Oxo "Y" peeler for peeling thick skinned things like winter squash. Once they're peeled, throw them in a Dutch oven with about a cup of apple juice or apple cider and put the lid on. Turn your flame to medium and let the pumpkin chunks steam for about 30 minutes, or until they are very soft. Don't worry about overcooking them; I don't think you can at this point.

Throw your softened pumpkin into the blender and puree until smooth. If you have an immersion blender, that works perfectly well right in the pot. You can also run the pumpkin through your Victorio Strainer's pumpkin attachment, but you'll have to puree' it at the end of the process, too.

At this point, you have lovely unsweetened pumpkin puree'. You can move on to the slow cooker and make pumpkin butter, or you can measure your puree' in 1 3/4 cup portions (that's the amount in the Libby's can) and freeze it for when you want to make pumpkin pies this winter. Please DO NOT attempt to can this puree'. It just isn't safe to do so. You can pressure can CHUNKS of pumpkin, but not puree'. Here's the scoop from the National Center for Food Preservation, pretty much THE authority on safe home canning.

Transfer two-thirds of your pumpkin to the slow cooker. Stick the remaining third in the refrigerator for tomorrow. To the pumpkin in the slow cooker, add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and nutmeg. Put the slow cooker lid askew so that steam can escape, turn it to low, and walk away. Let it cook for eight hours, or overnight. Stir it a few times if you think about it.

Eight hours later, or the next morning, add the remaining pumpkin and some more sugar and seasonings to taste. Continue to let it cook for a few more hours to get the flavors blended. If it's not very smooth, blend it one more time and then you're done!

Once it cools, ladle your pumpkin butter into freezable canning jars (the straight sided ones, like jelly jars and wide-mouth pints. Don't use canning jars with shoulders, or they will break in the freezer). Make sure to leave at least an inch of room for expansion in the freezer. You can also use any freezer-safe jars you'd like. Ball makes plastic jars specifically for the freezer, and I use restaurant portion containers that I buy from a restaurant supply store. Your pumpkin butter will keep for six months in the refrigerator or a year in your freezer. Once again, don't try to can this and keep it on a shelf in the pantry. It's just not safe, and you don't want to give anyone food poisoning.

Pumpkin butter makes wonderful gifts, and my family loves to have it on English muffins for breakfast. Although it's very sugary, I figure it's full of nutrients and better for them than jelly. Enjoy!

Red Wicket Pumpkin Butter
  • 4-5 pie pumpkins
  • 1 cup apple juice or cider
  • 4-6 cups white sugar, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves, to taste
  • 3/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste

Cut pumpkins in half and remove seeds and strings. Peel the skin off the pumpkins and chop them into large chunks. Add the chunks and the apple cider to a large, lidded pot and cook over medium heat for approx. 30 minutes, or until very soft. Process pumpkin in a strainer or blender until smooth. Transfer 2/3 of the pumpkin to slow cooker. Put the remaining pumpkin into the refrigerator for later. Add four cups of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt to the pumpkin in the slow cooker and combine well. Put the lid on the slow cooker sideways to allow steam to escape and cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining pumpkin, adjust sugar and spice levels, and allow to cook on low heat for an additional 3-4 hours or until puree is thick and dark brown. Allow to cool, then ladle into jars. Freeze for up to a year, or store in the refrigerator for six months.