If you walked along my street today (and also happened to live under a rock), you’d have no idea that our first snowy nor’eastah had hit us just a day and a half prior. And I’m not complaining. The first snow is
always usually fun, and the sight of ANY snow at all is exciting after a winter practically void of the stuff, but I’d be more than happy to have another few weeks of temperatures hovering around 50 °F. As would my bank account. But the arrival of snow inevitably signals our impending transition to short days, frigid nights, and, at least for many a Northeastern locavore, cross-country produce.
This weekend marks the end of my city’s farmers market for the season, which means I intend to bulk up on some dry storage staples like winter squash, potatoes, and onions, along with purchasing another bushel of apples to can more vanilla and star anise applesauce because it is THAT delicious. Unlike previous years, I really want to make the effort to continue purchasing local foods into the holiday season and beyond by shopping the winter farmers markets in my area (not a Bostonian? Find a winter market closest to you here). Working two jobs with odd hours while sharing a car with my boyfriend will definitely make this less than convenient, but I have more than enough convenience in so many other aspects of my life; continuing to support (and envy) local growers as they continue to support my appetite for super-fresh, health-promoting produce is well-worth the extra effort on my part.
So as we approach my favorite feasting holiday, I look forward to spending the next two weeks trying out and (hopefully) writing about some less common dishes to add to one’s Thanksgiving spread. Of course, there are still late season items to put up, like winter squashes. Pumpkin butter has been on my radar for quite some time, but I’d never gotten around to preparing it. The recipe below makes for a lower-sugar “pumpkin pie” butter reminiscent of the classic holiday dessert I’ve used to describe it. Smooth, sweet, and spiced, this pumpkin butter is fabulous for spreading onto breads, pastries, or even used as a tart filling (I’m thinking a slightly-crumbly walnut tart crust like the one featured here would be divine).
Pumpkin Pie Butter
Yields about 3 half pints
- 3 lbs sugar pumpkin (or similar winter squash such as butternut or kabocha), washed, peeled, gutted, and chopped into chunks*
- 2 c pure apple cider
- 1/4 c (or more) pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp molasses
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 whole allspice berries
- dash of each: nutmeg, ground ginger, and salt
*If you’d prefer, you can also roast the squash whole! If you use this method, combine the cooked pumpkin or winter squash with the cider and sugars, puree the mixture, and continue with the recipe as written.
Combine the pumpkin and cider in a pot over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the pumpkin can easily be mashed down with a wooden spoon, about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully puree the mixture using either an immersion blender, food mill, or food processor. Return the puree to the stove, add the remaining ingredients (sugars, vanilla, and spices), and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook slowly, partially covered to prevent splattering, until the butter can round up on a spoon; at this point, the puree should be reduced to roughly half of its original volume. Remove the whole spices, puree again, if desired, and ladle into clean jars. Pumpkin butter is too alkaline and dense to safely can at home, so it MUST be refrigerated or frozen. While it is entirely unnecessary, I bought some of those nifty plastic freezer pint “jars” a few months back with this preserve in mind; I’m glad I made the purchase!