When I was in elementary school, the family of one of my friends owned a local orchard. I used to look forward to going over to her house — she always seemed to have some exciting “nature-y” or “farm-y” thing going on there. At one point they owned a go-cart, and she and I piled on it together and sped through the grassy paths between the rows of apple trees in their orchards. I seem to remember them having a pet chicken for a period of time, and I remember holding it in my lap and thinking “whoa, this is so cool.” She and I teamed up one year for a science fair project, where we fed two mice two different diets to see if they gained weight differently. I don’t think her mom was very pleased when the mice escaped…oops! They lived right down the road from their orchard store, where lots of good things like apples, jams & jellies, vegetables, pies and other baked goods were sold. I thought I had died and gone to heaven one day when she brought me in the back of the store, where all the baking action went on, and we got some apple cider donuts to munch on…mmm! Such were the perks of having the daughter of an orchard owner for a friend (but besides that, she was just a truly nice, fun person to be around – one of those very “genuine” people you come across in life and count yourself the luckier for it.)
As I grew older, I still stopped by the store to pick up apples or pies — and much to my delight, I discovered jars of pumpkin butter. Pumpkin butter! It was kind of a revelation when I realized what it was. I positively adore apple butter, and I love any edible goodies remotely incorporating pumpkin, so the idea that there was a spread that combined the idea of pumpkin, warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and the smooth, velvety consistency of apple butter was a dream come true for me (I kid you not; these kinds of things just make me giddy!)
The good news is, for those of you who, like me, adore fruit butters and pumpkin, pumpkin butter really couldn’t be easier to make. I made some the other week with a pumpkin I had from our CSA share, roasting it until tender, scooping out the soft flesh, pureeing it and draining it in cheesecloth overnight (Kristin has a nice step-by-step pictorial post about making your own pumpkin puree.) If you don’t have a little pumpkin sitting around, waiting to roast, I suspect you could start with good-quality canned pumpkin and this butter would still be pretty darn good.
Into a saucepan I put the pumpkin puree along with some apple cider, brown sugar and a variety of spices.
A short simmer later, the mixture smooths into a velvety spread, perfect on toast, stirred into yogurt with granola, spread onto nibbles of scone, stirred into oatmeal, or just eaten by the spoonful. You should keep the jars in the refrigerator since the spread isn’t high enough in acid to preserve, but don’t count on it lasting long – we’ve been going through this latest batch at an alarming rate!
2 1/2 cups cooked pureed pumpkin (from a 3-4 pound pumpkin)
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir together to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.