Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn & Pumpkin Butter

Experiencing autumn was one of the unexpected blessings of my nearly 3 week trip to the the Midwest in September.  I hadn't had a "proper" fall since I moved out of ND over 3 years ago.

Yes, there is some "fall" weather in SC, though the jury's still out on TX (highs in the upper 90s in October), but that cooler weather comes much closer to Thanksgiving.  I have already lamented the lack of autumn in a previous post (where I painted my own fall on sugar cookies).  The tree varieties are so much different in SC and TX than they are in ND & MN.

I enjoyed many walks with my Mom and Mollie-dog while we spent time with Grandpa in Hillsboro.  It was refreshing not just to feel the cooler temperatures and breezes, but to watch the foliage change color, and to hear the crunch of fallen leaves under foot.

Right before I flew back, we took a fast trip to the family lake cabin in the middle of the White Earth State Forest in Minnesota.

The experts had predicted that weekend to be the height of the fall colors.  The colors were spectacular!  Like so many other places, Minnesota is in desperate need of rain & the dry conditions (I think?) have made for especially deep, rich colors this autumn.

Daylight was fast waning by the time we finally arrived at Tulaby Lake.  Due to my early flight the following morning, I knew this time was my only chance to take in as much fall as possible.

The colors. The sounds. The cooler temperatures.  I took a fast walk, chasing the light & savoring the season.

It is most definitely not fall in Southwest Texas.  Though yesterday and today there's a bit of a colder spell, we are still forecasted to have temperatures in the 90s later this week.  I guess that 90s is an improvement over temperatures in the 100s.  And due to some rain, our once-dried-up pond is full & the limited plants & leaves have perked up green colors.

I know that, for the most part, if I want to experience some semblance of the autumn feelings I felt while up North, I will need to create them for myself.  Bringing the magical ingredients of pumpkin, apples, warm spices, pears & caramel into my cooking & baking help me imagine fall has reached me here.

Easing back into my "regular" life hasn't been easy.  I haven't done tons of cooking or baking yet, but tasks like roasting a chicken with potatoes, carrots, garlic & onions, and cooking a simple batch of pumpkin butter do make me feel a little more normal again.  And eating a piece of toast slathered with pumpkin butter for breakfast doesn't hurt either.

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen 

1 large can (29 oz) Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 c Apple Juice (I used "Simply Apple")
1 1/3 c Brown sugar, packed
1 Tbl Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  
  2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat to low & simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Taste and add additional brown sugar and/or spices according to your preferences.  
  3. Keep cooking until the mixture has thickened & the flavor has concentrated.
  4. Remove from heat & allow to cool.  
  5. Place butter into an airtight container & store in the refrigerator. 
Note: unfortunately, pumpkin butter is one of the things that is not safe to can :(  So either refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.  Read more here.  

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