Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Local Pumpkin Patch!!

What could be better than whipping up a batch of pumpkin butter for cool fall morning breakfasts??  Every year my friend Chris and I stock her pantry for the winter.  It also makes great inexpensive gifts ... not so much for me, because I can take it or leave it ... but Chris' family LOVES the stuff!!!

With all the utensils in the kitchen stacked on the counter and ready to go, Chris and I began the rather easy process of cooking up a batch.  It's a simple recipe ... pumpkin, apple juice and lots of spices, including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  It's pretty much pumpkin pie for your toast!!  The only hard part of this recipe is the stirring, which I gladly relinquish to Chris.  You see, I've made this kind of jam for years ... and I know how badly you can get burned by exploding lava-hot pumpkin as it boils in the pot, inches away from your hand.  A couple of ice cubes later and Chris' fingers were fine!!!
Twenty minutes of cooking, thirty minutes of messing with sterilizing jars and lids, and we had lift-off!!
The interesting thing about making any kind of product with pumpkin, is how the recipe changes over the years.  My Mom and I made lots of jams, jellies and butters, never once dying from the products due to botulism or any other nasty organism.  Nowadays however, people panic when you mention "canning" or "putting up" fruits and vegetables.  Unless you actually put these jars in a canner and process them for an hour or so, you should probably keep them in the fridge or freezer and use soon after opening.  Mine usually don't last that long, but I do keep them in the fridge.  I have canned everything from applesauce to tomatoes to okra and green beans with no problems, but I guess there might always be the first time.  "Making your own" requires your undivided attention to cleanliness!!

Next up was scones ... cranberry orange ... a test recipe I made while the butter was cooking.  Not bad ... not bad at all!!  It does need a little tweeking but was definitely edible!!
After eating an entire bowl of the artichoke-garlic dip test run, we decided different chips were called for.  Don't be surprised if this one shows up at a rally soon.  It was YUMMY!!!

Done with cooking, it was off to the Pumpkin Patch for Chris' desk decorations.  I was pleasantly surprised that the prices ran from $1.50 to $7.00 each.  Now that's a price today's families can live with. This was the farms first year at pumpkin patching and with a hay ride, petting zoo (if 3 animals make a zoo), tricycle races and a corn maze, it was a hit.  Thanks to the Facebook advertising they received, the place was packed with families.  
Kids were racing around the hay-bale race track on tricycles and scrambling up on the hay wagon for a trip through the fields.  Bales of straw stacked in a giant pyramid made for lots of climbing fun.  Since Chris hadn't actually seen how pumpkins grow, we took a short walk to the fields, where her photography-self came out as she ran from pumpkin to pumpkin taking pictures!!
They are set up in an old dairy barn, amazingly clean and neat with pumpkins stacked everywhere.  "Dad" of the pumpkin patch loves flowers, and it shows.  They are planted in neat rock planters all around the property.

The latest kind of pumpkin is called the Cinderella.  Wide and flat with deep grooves, they immediately catch your eye.  We found this one hiding in a back corner!!  Who could resist this beauty???
Back at my ranch and loaded up with pumpkin butter, scones, pumpkin cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and recipes, Chris headed home.  I was VERY thankful to get rid of all those horrible calories ... I mean delicious goodies ... so they won't end up on my plate.  

I think I overdid the taste testing.  My reward for that will be running a couple miles every day!!  It's been awhile since I hit the streets, so I'm kind of stiff and sore!!  But if it means I can have another cinnamon roll, I'll suffer the pain!!!   Today I'm off to Sonora to pick up our packets for Costa Rica.  Patty Chance and I will be spending a couple weeks relaxing in the sun and playing "find the bird (or monkey) 100' up in the tree".  It should be an interesting trip ... we are the ONLY two who signed up for the extra 3 day boat ride down the river.  Do you think they know something we don't???

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