Pumpkin Time

The apples have been sauced and now it is time for pumpkins.

Trenton hurt his back last week, right before cold weather set in so the kids and I worked really hard to get the last of the garden harvested before the frost hit. It started snowing and blowing right away in the morning so we bundled up to get morning chores done and pick the pumpkins. I started doing chores while I sent Lucian to find his red wagon to put the pumpkins in. kimg0464

This may be a little parental bragging but that son of mine can get a job done once he sets his mind to it. I was struggling to move the round bale feeder, which is a big metal ring with head slots to keep the horses from walking on their hay and wasting it, when I noticed the kids in the garden loading their wagon with little pie pumpkins. Fiona and Lucian were having a great time hunting for the bright orange pumpkins and didn’t need my help at all. I told them where to put the pumpkins in the garage and they went about their business.

Letting them complete that chore on their own gave them an accomplishment to be proud of. They were able to see a job well done and I was proud of them because they knew their dad was hurt and they wanted to help.

Now that the pumpkins are picked it is time to cook them down. In previous years I would scoop out the seeds, cut the peel off the meat of the pumpkin, and cook it down in a crock-pot. Last year I decided to halve the pumpkins, scoop out the seeds, and cook them in the oven like I do squash. It was soooo much easier.

After the pumpkin is soft I scoop it out and freeze it. Most pumpkin recipes call for two cups so it is easier to measure the cooked pumpkin into bags. Then it is already measured and all I have to do is thaw and add it to the recipe.kimg0439-1

One of the benefits to having animals is that hardly anything goes to waste. I give the pumpkin seeds and pulp to my goats because it works as a natural dewormer and I give the cooked skins to the chickens. Jack, our horse, has even nibbled pumpkin rind on occasion.

I love cooking with pumpkin because it is versatile and wholesome. There are not many vegetables that can taste good in a cookie and a soup.

My favorite pumpkin recipe is an easy pumpkin bread from Betty Crocker:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin or 2 cups homegrown pumpkin
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of two 8×4-inch loaf pans.

Here is where I improvise. I don’t like to do dishes so if I can complete a recipe in one bowl I will do so.

2. In a large bowl beat 2 cups of sugar and butter. Add the eggs one or two at a time beating well. Beat in water and pumpkin. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir well until moistened add chocolate chips. Spread evenly in pans. Sprinkle tops with chocolate chips, pecans, and sugar. (I always forget the topping, but it tastes great without it.)

3. Bake 1 hour and 5-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove to cooling rack.

The recipe is easy and tastes delicious. It also works well if it is halved and muffin tins can be used instead of a bread pan.

How do you like to use your pumpkins?

Don’t forget to save a few to make Jack-o-Lanterns! Lucian and Fiona are excited to make Pumpkin Moonshines like little Sylvie Ann in Pumpkin Moonshine which is one of their favorite books from their Aunty Jessica.

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Apples

Fall is a busy time of year for collecting and processing the wonderful fruits and vegetables we have grown through the summer. While we still have not put in our own orchard I know a few people who have apples aplenty.

This last Sunday I took the kids apple picking with Grandma Linda and we all had a great time. Lucian was up in the branches hollering, “Look how beautiful this one is!” “See how red it is?” “Smell it, it smells delicious.” Fiona’s job was to grab apples from Lucian and put them into the basket. Every once in a while I would pick her up so she could yank one off the tree. Her continuous question was, “Can I eat this?” The girl loves apples. I haven’t climbed a tree in a few years but I was up in one of the other trees picking as many as I could reach. All the good ones were up top. Penelope was content to watch us pick apples, most of the time, then she was happy with grandma snuggles. When we finished we had lunch at Alley Cats which is one of the local coffee shops conveniently located just down the alley from where we were picking apples.

kimg0457I have had a giant basket of apples riding around in my car for a few days and have finally gotten around to processing them. Why in the car? You might ask. Trenton asked the same thing. It is cooler outside than in the house, they all won’t fit in the refrigerator, I don’t want them to get mushy from being too warm and they are protected if it freezes. Trunks are for temporarily storing apples in, aren’t they?

I peeled about a third of the apples yesterday which filled my big crock-pot. That was also as many apples as I could peel without my hand cramping up painfully. We have an apple peeler/corer but on most real apples it doesn’t work very well. I stress real apples because most apples that are not from big orchards are a little wonky. They are not the perfectly round apples you expect to see in the store. Sometimes the core is off center and they can be a bit lumpy but the flavor is amazing.

One full crock-pot of sliced apples and 1/2 cup of water set on low for about 5 hours turns into 4 pints of great looking applesauce. I think we have enough apples for one more batch of applesauce and a batch of apple butter. I’m hoping I can find the recipe for apple butter that I used last year because it was delicious. If I remember correctly I found an apple butter recipe that didn’t add sugar to the mix. I like to find recipes that taste great without adding extra sugar.

Lucian and Fiona both love the apple butter. I’ll have them help mix in the spices when it is time to make it. They both love to cook so it will be fun for them to help make it and help eat it when it is finished.