Preserves

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

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Roasted Pumpkin Puree (2)

I am one of those people who likes to make my own way in life. This includes preserving, freezing, grinding my own coffee beans that have been roasted by my young friend from church, and making my own chocolate cake and sauces. This is not to say that I never use stuff from the grocery freezers and shelves, but in general, I prefer to make my own. It makes me feel self-sufficient, as though my army of canned and frozen goods, and locally roasted, freshly ground coffee can help me conquer the world. Lead on, O Kitchen of Homemade Goodies…Charge!

One of those things I faithfully do myself is canned or frozen pumpkin, made from real pie pumpkins. Not those soft-skinned pale-fleshed orange monsters waiting to be carved into some ghastly grinning caricature, but the deeply hued, sweet-fleshed little pumpkins that are actually developed for baking. I love the deep orange tones of the finished product and the flavour is superb. It’s a perfect rainy day project while you’re writing blogs or something, or you can easily do it in an evening if you’re planning to freeze it.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (5)
Look at that smooth golden goodness just waiting to be used in something  delectable!

There are different methods of cooking the pumpkin; my mom used to halve them, peel them and cut them into large chunks into a large kettle, and for a number of years I did it that way too. But it’s hard and awkward to peel pumpkin, and when I discovered the roasting method later, I was quickly sold on it. It’s a matter of washing the pumpkins, breaking off the stems, cutting them in half and scraping out the seeds. Then you tip them upside down on a large baking sheet lined with foil, pour about an inch of hot water around them and bake them at 350°F for 60 to 90 minutes, until they’re soft when you poke them. I let them rest about 10 minutes, then turn them over and scoop out the pulp. Put the pulp into a blender or a large pot if you’re using an immersion blender. Blend it until there are no lumps left. Either scoop it into boxes for the freezer or into pint jars if you’re canning it. Now here’s the kicker; it takes three hours to can, unless you have a pressurized canner. Because of the low acidic nature of pumpkin and no preserving agents like sugar, salt, or vinegar, it takes that long to seal and stay sealed. Believe me, I know this from personal experience. It’s always a toss-up for me; the ease of freezing, then trusting my faulty memory to take it out of the freezer a day or two before I want to use it, or can it for three hours and have it at my fingertips at a moment’s notice. Sometimes I do both. This time I took the easy route and froze it. Now I’m going to use it in these delicious Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Apple Topping!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (4)
I divided the pumpkin into 1 1/2 cups measures to freeze because that’s about right for a lot of things!

This post is sponsored by  Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, and these pie pumpkins can be found there, as well as many other seasonal goodies. Come and check them out!

Pie pumpkins (also known as sugar pumpkins) are much sweeter than than the larger carving pumpkins. Their flesh is also less watery and stringy,  firmer, and more orange than the jack-o-lantern pumpkins. They are frequently sold with squash at farm markets. They are the best for pies and other baked goodies!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (5)

  • 3 pie (sugar) pumpkins
  • boxes for freezing or pints for canning
  • lids

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wash the pumpkins, then break off stems and cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds with a large sturdy spoon or ice cream scoop. If you like to eat roasted pumpkin seeds, here is your chance to make as many as you wish! Line a large baking tray with foil and tip the pumpkins cut side down on the tray. Pour 1 inch of very hot water around the pumpkins and carefully slide tray into the oven. Bake for an hour or more, until the pumpkins are soft when poked or pricked. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkins. Cool for 10 minutes until they are easier to handle. 

Turn them over, scoop out the pulp and run it through a blender in batches or put it in a large pot if you’re using an immersion blender. My mom used a manual potato masher. Blend until no lumps remain. Scoop into 2 cup boxes to freeze and cover, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace for expansion or into sterilized pint jars, if canning. Boil the snaplids for 5 minutes, leaving on simmer while filling the jars. Wipe the rim of the jars thoroughly, centre the lids on top, then lightly screw on the rings. Place the jars in a canning kettle and pour hot water in up to the bottom of the necks. Cover. Heat the kettle on high until the water boils, then turn down heat to a low boil and set timer for 3 hours. You may need to add more boiling water at some point. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and allow jars to sit for 10 minutes before removing onto a towel-covered surface. Let sit for 24 hours before washing up and moving to a cool dark place. I got 8 cups of puree from my three pumpkins that I divided into 6 boxes with 1 1/2 cups in each.

Early Days and Canned Applesauce

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Canned Applesauce with Cinnamon

With Family Day upon us, I asked Steve’s oldest sister Laurel what she remembers doing together as a family in those very early days when Martin’s Apples was just a fledgling business. This is what she remembers, “I have memories of picking apples every day in the fall, after school (it seemed like every day, at least!). I remember it was quite amazing when we made that old shed into a cooler and we had a cold place to store our apples. Before that, I remember storing apples (russet; Dad’s favourite back then) in our basement under the old kitchen/study, because it was cooler there. I also have memories of polishing apples in the driving shed before we went to market the next day. One Friday evening in particular stands out in my memory. It was a cozy fall evening and we were all out there together sorting and individually shining each apple for a very large order* that was being picked up. Janet (another sister) and I ate an incredible amount of apples that night.” *This order was for about 20 bushels of apples, which would be the equivalent of around 2200 apples! 

It’s hard to imagine polishing each apple by hand, but there you have it! The Martin’s took pleasure in having an attractive product from the very beginning. I have a personal attachment to that cement pad that housed that first apple cooler, because some years later it became the foundation for our mobile home; our first abode when we married. It was tucked in the orchard, partway down the “bush lane”. It was a very romantic location for a young couple’s first home, I thought. I have many good memories of living in our orchard bower. 

The Martin family has also reminisced about picking up the Melba apples that had fallen from the tree in the back yard before they could mow the lawn. These apples were then turned into applesauce for their large family. Incidentally, that old Melba tree is still standing and is the only apple tree left from those days. It was in the back yard before the orchard was planted. In an earlier post, I mentioned that creamed potatoes and sausage were two of the quintessential foods of our Mennonite culture. There is another one that should be added to that list, and that is applesauce. There are many families that eat it two, or even three times a day. It is on their table morning, noon, and night, usually as dessert. 

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The apples of my eye!

Traditionally, applesauce is made by washing (don’t peel) apples, cutting them in quarters, and cooking them in a bit of water. Then the hot apples are put through a strainer, and sugar or honey is added. The sauce is funneled into jars, covered and steamed for 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to make a chunky sauce that I don’t preserve, in which I peel the apples, core and cut them, and cook them in about an inch or so of water until soft. I mash them with a potato “stomper” as we used to call it, add desired amount of sugar (or not), and let it cool. You could also use an immersion blender, or a pastry cutter. Be aware that if you choose not to add sugar to your canned sauce, your applesauce will turn brown in the jars after it’s been sitting for awhile, since sugar is a preservative. 

A lot of people use the first apples to make applesauce. You can do that if you wish, but if you wait until the apples are riper, the sauce will be much sweeter and full of flavour naturally. Most apples can be turned into sauce. I think a blend of apples makes the best sauce, just as it does in fresh cider. 

There are several types of strainers; the old-fashioned cone ricer that my mom used, the basket-style that is pictured here, and a high-falutin’ Victorio strainer. Take your pick! 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Canned Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bushel of apples (Macs, Empire, Cortland, Crispin, Jonagold are all good)
  • sugar, honey or other sweetener to taste if desired 
  • water
  • canning supplies*

Directions

Put about two inches of water into a very large kettle. Wash and quarter the apples, placing them in the kettle until the kettle is about 2/3 full. Cover  the remaining apple quarters with water in a large bowl until kettle is free again. Cook the apples until soft and puffy, starting them at a boil, then turning them down to a low boil. Stir to keep from scorching on the bottom of the kettle, especially at the beginning. Meanwhile heat empty clean quart jars in the oven on 250° for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Put snaplids into a little pot, cover with water, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the rubber. Turn down to simmer. Prepare another kettle or crock with the strainer over it, and ladle the hot apples into the strainer in batches. Rotate through strainer until the pulp is dry. Scrape out the junk and repeat process until all the apples are used. Add desired amount of sweetener to the sauce (I usually add 1 – 2 cups per kettle); stir and taste. Funnel the sauce into the sterilized jars, filling to middle of the neck (about 1/2″ from the top), then wipe the rim of the jar, carefully fit the snaplid on the top, and screw on the ring just until tight. Fill a canner half full of warm water, set jars in the water, and top up the water if needed. It should come to the base of  the jars’ necks. Cover the canner and turn the burner to high. Once the water is boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and continue steaming for 20 minutes. When timer goes off, turn off burner, set lid ajar, and let the jars sit in the water for about 10 minutes to settle. This keeps them from spitting juice after they are removed. Remove carefully and set on a towel to cool. Listen for the pings and pops as the lids seal; such a sweet sound of success! Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, being careful not to disturb the seals, wash up and store in a cool place until ready to eat. Enjoy plain with pork chops or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a slice of cheese or chocolate cake! 

*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful.

One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce