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Nov
19

Savory Soup Sunday: Goulash Soup

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The time between paychecks can seem to drag on forever. It certainly did when I was growing up. Those last few days were often rough. Mom did what she could to stretch the money until the next paycheck. One way she did so was by what she served for dinner.

One of my favorites was goulash. In the recent past I’ve learned it’s also called American goulash or American chop suey. Whatever you call it, it was darn good. It was simple food at its best. Mom usually made it the same way every time. Cook off some ground beef. Cook some macaroni. Drain the macaroni, add a can or two of whole tomatoes, and add in the ground beef. If we had any, she sometimes added green bell pepper. Sometimes Mom added onions and sometimes not. And Parmesan cheese was always available in that familiar green shaker canister available at every supermarket. It was one of those dishes that was even better as a leftover. Or cold; more than once I might have snitched some from the fridge.

Once out on my own, I added it to my repertoire. It was a favorite for years. Sometimes I used ground beef. Other times I used ground turkey. Sometimes I skipped the meat altogether. And while the pasta and/or types of peppers used may have changed from time to time, I always used tomatoes, too. Sometimes I turned it into soup.

Then came 2016, and I had to change my diet. Pasta was no longer in the picture. Or so I thought. But I just couldn’t give it up for good. It is a dish that had an important place in my childhood. Besides, I really like it.

Finally, a week ago, I made goulash soup for the first time in a long while. I didn’t skip the pasta, either. But I treated in differently. Instead of featuring it in the dish, it was a costar. I didn’t leave out the meat, but again, I didn’t let it play a starring role. The stars of this goulash soup were the vegetables.

Besides taste, the greatest thing about about this soup is its versatility. Just like the non-soup version, you can use whatever vegetables you want. Tomatoes are pretty much a given. In this case, I used Italian-style tomato sauce I made and canned. I used both red and green bell peppers because they’re what I had on hand. And I threw in some red pepper flakes because that’s just how I roll. I did use meat this time, but you can certainly skip it. And I topped with mozzarella. Yep, that’s what I had on hand.

And the pasta?

I had a partial box of rotini that I’d had for who knows how long. I made approximately 4 servings of the soup. But rather than use 4 servings of pasta, I used 1 serving. So even if I sat there and ate the whole pot (which I didn’t), I’d still only be eating 1 serving of pasta.

I made this goulash soup in the slow cooker. Ordinarily, though, I make it in a soup pot on top of the stove. So you can do either. Choose whatever is convenient for you.

This soup is a good choice for any time of year. During the summer, use fresh produce you’ve grown or gotten from the farmers’ market. Use what you preserved when fresh vegetables are difficult to come by. Commercially frozen vegetables–without salt or sauce–are also good choices.

Here’s my version of goulash soup. But remember–make it your own.

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Nov
12

Savory Soup Sunday: Sweet Potato Soup

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This past week has been cold. Really cold. As in temperatures in the teens. Perfect soup weather. But then, you all know any weather is soup weather to me.

I decided this was the perfect time to try out something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I love potato soup. Usually with lots of butter and crackers. Unfortunately, those days are past. Oh, I can have potato soup, but it just doesn’t seem the same. So I decided to change my way of thinking when it comes to potato soup. In my traditional version, a lot of flavor came from that butter. But what if I started with a more flavorful potato? Enter the sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes are usually available year-round at most markets. Even my village market. They are also relatively easy to grow. I’ve grown them in buckets and even a grow tower. You can sometimes find them in the frozen food section, and, of course, they come in cans. A while ago I took advantage  of a sale and bought some sweet potatoes. I dehydrated some and canned some. For the soup, I used the canned ones. Since the soup is pureed anyway, the somewhat mushy texture of the canned potatoes wasn’t a problem.

Whatever form you choose, you’ll need about 8 ounces of cooked sweet potato. If you choose to use roasted potatoes, you’ll probably want some stock or water on hand for added moisture when you’re heating them in the pot. You don’t want them to stick. But remember, you’re going to add milk or cream later, so don’t add too much. I drained the canned sweet potatoes, retaining the liquid. There was enough moisture in the potatoes that the extra liquid wasn’t necessary, but better safe than sorry.

Sweet Potato Soup

When the potatoes are hot, mash or puree to the desired texture. Return to the pot and add the spices and red pepper flakes. Add about a half-cup of milk, half and half, or cream, and warm through. If you want to make this a little healthier, skip that part and add stock. And for a final bit of tasty decadence, add a pat of butter to finish.

I really like this soup. I’m thinking many of my home-canned sweet potatoes will find themselves in this soup. I used milk and skipped the butter and crackers, and I didn’t miss them one bit.

I hope you’ll give this a try. You can find the recipe here.

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Nov
09

Back to the Cheese Board

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The great quest for good vegan/vegetarian cheese recipes continues. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my jack cheese recipes made with cashews. But sometimes I don’t have cashews. They aren’t always available here, and besides, they can be pricey. So I’m always on the lookout for a good recipe to try–and then to change. That’s just the way I am.

Jules Aron’s Vegan Cheese: Simple, Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes  is the latest addition to my cheese-making library. You know how cauliflower seems to be the go-to veggie for almost alternative everything these days? Even I jumped on the bandwagon, making cauliflower steaks and cauliflower rice; the latter one of my favorite additions to soups and Chinese food. When I saw her recipe “Cauliflower Jack,” I knew I had to try it, and the sooner the better.

You may remember an early attempt using a vegetable (in that case, sweet potato) along with oatmeal as the base for a vegan cheese. (If not, check it out here. At the time, I was okay with it. But then I found other–better–recipes, and I’ve not made it again. But I couldn’t resist the call of this cauliflower cheese. It’s nut-free, seed-free, and soy-free.

And it’s super easy. Some people find having to work with agar-agar or kappa carrageenan daunting. Plus, you may not find them available locally; I order them. This recipe calls for neither. You will need vegan gelatin, such as Lieber’s vegan gelatin, which may need to be ordered. If you don’t care if it’s vegan, you can use Knox. The other ingredients–cauliflower, refined coconut oil, lime juice, sea salt, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and chives–you may have in your pantry or can get at almost any market.

Cauli Jack

The hardest part is to steam the cauliflower and melt the coconut oil (if solid). Seriously. That’s the most difficult part. While that’s working, bloom the gelatin. When the cauliflower is tender, throw it and everything else except the gelatin and chives into a blender and whir until smooth. Then add the gelatin and chives. Pour into a container, cover, and wait 4 hours. Okay, waiting may be the hardest part. But trust me, it’s worth it.

This is amazing. And it MELTS. So many vegan cheeses I’ve tried say they melt. But they don’t really. They soften, but they don’t melt in the traditional sense. This one does.

It melts!

But most important, it tastes good. It is a bit bland to me, but that can be fixed once you have the basic canvas down. I tried making a pepper jack with it, but without what I would call success. Oh, it tastes good (and melts), but I just haven’t found the combination to give it the kick I want. I’m definitely going to keep trying. Keep in mind that cauliflower on its own lacks flavor (at least to me). So that leaves lots of room for taste adjustments. Which I intend to take advantage of.

If you’re interested in vegan cheeses, I highly recommend Aron’s book.

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Nov
05

Savory Soup Sunday: Tomato Soup

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All of us have foods we turn to when we need comfort. For many, including me, that includes soup. When I think I’m coming down with something, it’s chicken soup. But when I’m feeling a bit depressed, it’s tomato soup–usually with a toasted cheese sandwich–that I turn to. And that brings me to this week’s Savory Soup Sunday–Tomato Soup.

Tomato Soup with Herbed Croutons

There are a lot of good things about this soup, but the most important thing (besides taste) is its flexibility. If you have fresh tomatoes, they’re great to use. Same thing with home-canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato paste. You can even use tomato powder. But, it you’re dependent on supermarkets for tomatoes, you have the same options. Well, except maybe for tomato powder. I’ve never seen it in a store.

While I have home-canned tomatoes, I decided to go with store-bought diced tomatoes because I figured that would be what most of you would have. Then I added stock (I used vegetable stock, but chicken stock would work), soy sauce (trust me on this), garlic powder, onion powder, a bay leaf, and dried basil. Everything just gets thrown into the pot. Bring it to a boil. Now, what happens next may seem odd. Add baking soda. This helps with the acidity. Be forewarned that it will foam, but it subsides as you simmer your soup. In lieu of baking soda, you can add a bit of sugar.

Simmer the soup about 15 minutes. If you want a smooth soup, puree with an immersion blender or carefully in a regular blender. If your soup isn’t as thick as you’d like, and you don’t have the time (or patience) to cook it until it thickens naturally, you can stir in some tomato powder. See, another reason to make tomato powder. You can also add heavy cream and/or butter.

Of course you can eat with crackers or the overwhelming favorite–a toasted cheese sandwich. Cut the sandwich into bite-sized pieces and top the soup. Or, there’s herbed croutons. Check out the “Thanksgiving Tips” below.

Whatever you choose, consider this version of tomato soup the next time you need a culinary hug. You can find the recipe here.

Thanksgiving Tip

It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is fewer than 3 weeks away. One of the mainstays of the holiday dinner is stuffing/dressing. My mom used to start saving slices of bread to dry out in the oven. I confess that I’ve sometimes purchased those bags of stuffing cubes in the store. But sheez, that can be pricey. My suggestion? Make your own. It’s easier than you think.

Start with your favorite bread recipe. I used a sourdough, but a yeast bread or even cornbread would be fine. Whatever you like. If for some reason you don’t feel comfortable making bread–and you really shouldn’t–you can use a mix. The only thing you need to do differently is add about a tablespoon and a half of poultry seasoning when you mix up the dough. That’s it. Then bake the bread as the recipe.

After the bread is cool, cut into slice and cut into cubes. Dry in a dehydrator or in the oven. Store in an airtight container until needed. It also makes great soup croutons (obviously) and salad croutons.

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Oct
29

Savory Soup Sunday: Baby Lima Bean, Chicken, and Collard Green Soup

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I’m a little (okay, a lot) late getting this posted. Silly work keeps getting in the way. Regardless, let’s talk about this week’s soup: Baby Lima Bean, Chicken, and Collard Green Soup.

When I was a kid, we ate a lot of lima beans. Most of the time, they were in soup, though there were the occasional use of them as a side dish. No matter how Mom fixed them, they were not my favorite beans. As I recall, I turned up my nose at them often. But it was eat them or go without. As I got older, I started liking them again. My liking increased as their availability decreased. It is rare that I can find dry lima beans. Even canned ones are hard to find locally. So when I do find dry beans, I try to get as many as I can. If limas aren’t a favorite or you can’t find them, I suggest another white bean, such as Great Northern or navy beans.

A word about beans. Almost everything you read says to soak 8-12 hours. I don’t. It’s a personal choice. Many believe it helps with gastrointestinal discomfort. Do or don’t; it’s up to you.

Now that I think about it, this recipe is pretty much made of many things I didn’t like as a child. When it came to chicken, I was a white meat girl. As I became responsible for buying my own food–in other words, became an adult–dark meat was cheaper. So that’s why I use thighs in this recipe, but you can use any you like.

I’ve always loved greens. Spinach was my childhood favorite, and I still like it a lot. Mom never made collard greens. But when I first tried them at a restaurant that served Southern foods, I was hooked. I make them often. If you don’t like collard greens, use spinach in the same way. No matter which you use, make sure to just place them on top. Let the cooking process invite them into the flavor party.

I make my own poultry seasoning. And like most things I make, it has no salt. If you’re using commercial poultry seasoning and stock, hold off on adding more salt until you get a taste. And if you don’t have smoked paprika, no big deal. You can add sweet paprika and a wee bit of ground cumin. Don’t like crushed red pepper? Leave it out. I recommend adding some ground black pepper to taste, though. And yes, you can switch out the distilled white vinegar with apple cider vinegar, but I’ve not been really happy when I’ve done that.

I cooked mine in a Crock-pot. Of course you can do it on the stove top, covered, low and slow in a heavy-bottom pan. And if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative, simply leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock.

I hope you’ll give it a try. You can find my recipe here.

 

 

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Oct
22

Welcome to Savory Soup Sunday

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October 22 is a big day. It’s my brother’s birthday, the season premiere of The Walking Dead, and the start of a new series here on The Enabling Cook. Welcome to Savory Soup Sunday!

Some of you may remember we had a previous series about soup here at Enabling. It was a big hit among readers. And if you follow me here or on social media, you know my love of soup. It is seasonless, though I know many people tend to eat soup mainly during the cold months. So its seems like the perfect time to bring back soup to The Enabling Cook on a regular basis.

So what kinds of soup will you find this time? There will be new ones, like today’s Dublin coddle soup. But since I’m often tweaking recipes, you’ll probably find some I’ve done before but with some changes. I’d love to do some exotic soups, but living here in the middle of nowhere makes many but the most basic ingredients difficult to find.

Let’s get started already.

Dublin Coddle Soup

I’ve loved this soup for a long time. It’s steeped in history and tradition. Sometimes called Irish coddle stew or simply coddle soup (or stew), this dish, it was based on ingredients people in the Irish countryside would likely have on hand–potatoes, onions, sausage, and bacon. Carrots and cabbage were often added as well. This made it a relatively inexpensive dish for those who were having lean financial times. And today, though most of us will have to go to a supermarket to get the ingredients, it is still a less-expensive and filling soup.

And the name “coddle”? There are a few theories for how the soup got its name. Some say the soup is intended to coddle one’s soul; it’s basic ingredients made with love. As truthful as that might be, the real truth probably lies in the fact the soup is cooked on a long, slow simmer–“coddling” in Irish terminology. I prefer to think of it as a bit of both.

 

Potatoes are the star of the soup. In this version, I use baking potatoes, which I do not peel. When I have them, I like to use sweet potatoes for added nutrition. Whichever you use, slice thinly or chop into small pieces. You want them to thicken the soup. I like to have some smaller and larger pieces. That way, they thicken the soup, and yet, there are still some larger pieces to enjoy.

The second stars are bacon and sausage. I don’t do pork, and since the village market didn’t have turkey bacon, I skipped the bacon. I made my own turkey sausage. The plan was to cut the links into 2-inch pieces, but it didn’t work out that way. Still, the crumbly version was quite tasty.

When you brown off the sausage and bacon, do not forget the fond at the bottom of the pan. That’s the tasty bits.

Although amounts are given for the onions and carrots (I used my dehydrated carrots, by the way), go with what you like. If you love onion, add more. Not so crazy about onion? Use less. The same with carrots.

In the recipe, I list using chicken or vegetable stock. You can, of course, use beef stock. Just please don’t use plain water.

Now here’s one of the best things about coddle soup. Put the ingredients in a slow cooker, and let it go. That’s it. Just let it cook, sending wonderful smells through the house in the process. If you don’t have a slow cooker (and why don’t you?), you can simmer it covered on the stove, stirring occasionally. Be sure to use a heavy-bottom pot. There are some recipes that call for cooking it in the oven, but I’ve not tried those.

While cabbage may be a more traditional ingredients, I had kale. So about an hour before it was time to eat, I added some to the pot. If you want a creamy soup,  stir in some heavy cream and let it heat through before serving. I don’t think it really needs it.

Leftovers can be frozen. While I tend to can a lot of my soup leftovers, this one really isn’t conducive to the preservation technique.

I hope you give coddle soup a try. My recipe can be found here. You can also find a video of it on The Enabling Cook‘s YouTube channel.

If there’s a soup or stew you’d like me to try, please leave me a comment.

Enjoy.

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Oct
16

The Great Mater Quest of 2017

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Ah yes. Once again I found myself seeking tomatoes for canning. This has pretty much become a yearly thing. Kind of like a pilgrimage, though not really spiritual. That doesn’t mean succeeding doesn’t bring me great satisfaction. It certainly does.

Don’t get me wrong, I planted tomatoes, and they did fairly well. But they didn’t give me enough for all the uses I wanted them for. I checked the farmers’ markets, and almost all vendors told me the same thing. Because we didn’t have an extended hot period, tomatoes were really late. Most didn’t think they’d have canning tomatoes. Others just didn’t know. And now, for the most part, farmers’ market season is over.

Then there was last week. I was running an errand, traveling the route I’ve gone many times before. As usual, I passed a farmstand, the same one I’ve passed countless times before. But I’ve never stopped. But then I saw them. There they were, just sitting in front of the stall. Buckets of tomatoes! Okay, I had to stop. It seems as though they now have a glut of late tomatoes, including canning ones. They’re selling them for $10/bushel. Two bushels came home with me.

Tomato Powder

So the question was, What am I going to do with 2 bushels of tomatoes? The first choice was a no-brainer: tomato powder. I had just run out. My thought was to use canned sauce to make more, but now I had fresh tomatoes in my little hands. So tomato powder it was.

When I was a kid, Mom always canned whole tomatoes. I use commercially canned tomatoes a lot. Seriously, a LOT. So canning some of those was a given. I canned 6 quarts and 5 1/2 pints of whole tomatoes (so far). That took care of the first bushel.

I started on the second bushel this morning. Project 1 is Italian tomato sauce. This is basically a meatless pasta sauce, but I generally don’t eat pasta. So it’s just sauce with Italian seasonings. I prepped the tomatoes and started them in

We’re Going to Be Italian Tomato Sauce

the slow cooker early this morning. I’m hoping it’ll be done enough that I can use some for an eggplant bake for dinner. I added some of the new tomato powder to thicken it a bit. Now, would I have rather used romas or another sauce tomato? Sure. But I didn’t have them, so I’m using what I have.

This leaves the rest of the second bushel.

There’s definitely going to be more tomato powder. And I’m seriously thinking about more whole tomatoes in my canning pantry.

Announcement

October 22 is already a special day. It’s my brother’s birthday. It’s also the season premiere of The Walking Dead. But it’s also the beginning of a new The Enabling Cook series. Now, I’m going to keep it a surprise, but here’s a clue: It’s about one of my favorite things. So stay tuned.

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Sep
29

Weighing Down Fermentation

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Sometimes one of the most difficult things about fermenting is finding the right way to weigh the food down during the waiting process. Oh, you can use cabbage leaves, but I don’t always have them on hand unless I’m making sauerkraut. I usually made little carrot planks to keep them down. Then I picked up a couple of e-jen Kimchi containers, which have a “press” to hold down the ingredients. They work fine, but after a while, I noticed it was hard to get rid of the smell. For the most part, that wasn’t a problem, but I do tend to use a lot–A LOT–of garlic . . .

Then came the message from Raquella Raiz of Aqqo, a company owned by her family. She asked if I’d like to try their fermentation weights! Talk about timing. I had cabbage crying out to become sauerkraut.

The glass weights are sold in a set of five, so you don’t have to wait for one jar to finish before starting another fermenting project. They fit in any wide-mouth jar. There’s nothing complicated to their use. Put the ingredients in the jar, add brine or even vinegar pickling liquid, and then add the weight. Top with an airlock or whatever you use to vent. I used Pickle Pipes I ordered last year. The top photo is sauerkraut and the bottom, dilly beans.

I am impressed with these weights. My favorite thing about them is that they’re grooved. It makes them so easy to remove from the jar. I was concerned the food would come above the weights because there is space between the weight and jar, of course, but it was unwarranted. I had no problems.

Thanks to these weights, I’ll be doing more fermentation projects. If you’re new to fermenting or a pro, these weights will make things much easier.

You can order these weights from here (this is not an affiliate link).

 

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Sep
19

The Apple Butter Mystery Has Been Solved!

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In 2011, I posted my Apple Pie Butter recipe. In the connected post, I whined about my inability to find Musselman’s Apple Butter when I first moved to New York. And though that apple butter was good, it wasn’t Musselman’s. Or my version of it.

Over the years, I kind of set aside my quest, settling instead for applesauce. But this year, the desire for homemade apple butter returned. Big time! So I tried again. And by George, I think I’ve got it!!! At least a version of it.

Two things I wanted: 1. To be able to cook the apples in a slow cooker, and 2. Not too sweet. The former seems to be a preferred manner of cooking applesauce and apple butter, but I was late to the party. No big surprise there. As for the second, that’s one of the best things about making your own. You can make it as sweet or not sweet as you like. Well, that and knowing what’s in it.

Just like when I make applesauce, I used a mixture of apples. I used Gala, Mcintosh, Paula Reds, and Granny Smith apples in equal numbers. Use what you like and have on hand. I like the Granny Smith because they help cut the sweetness. The Paula Reds are new to me this year. I picked some up at a local orchard and love them.

I washed and cored the apples, and then I cut them into chunks. No, I didn’t peel. But if you prefer to peel them, do. I filled my 2-quart slow cooker almost full. I added about a third of a cup of water. You could, of course, add apple juice instead.

Once tender, I sent the apples spinning in the Vitamix until they reached the consistency I wanted. If you cut them small enough, they may break down enough that is not needed. Back into the slow cooker they went, along with the spices I used: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I added my choice of sweeteners–raw cane sugar and brown sugar. And then I let them cook until thick and gorgeous, about 3 hours. I propped the lid open with a wooden spoon for the last 2 hours or so to encourage it to get its thickest and best.

So how do you know it’s done? Well, it should mound on a spoon. And if you put some on a plate, liquid won’t start running away from the butter.

When done, I stirred in lemon juice. Now, at this point, you can put it in an airtight container, let cool, and refrigerate. You can also let it cool and freeze it. Me? I canned it.

I am very pleased with this apple butter. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a tweak here and there. That’s the fun part of cooking.

Here’s my recipe for apple butter.

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Sep
06

It’s September, and You Know What That Means

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Ah, yes. September. One of my favorite months and definitely the beginning of my favorite season. Fall or autumn, whatever you call, it, it’s my favorite season. It has been since I was a kid, and it meant going back to school. Seriously. I couldn’t wait for the first day of school. It still means back to school for many. It also means cooler weather and changing leaves–at least in some parts of the country. And for the past several years, it has meant something else. Yes, pumpkin spice flavored everything.

I have to confess something. That is probably my least favorite thing about September. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE PUMPKIN SPICE FLAVOR, but not in everything. For example, I love pumpkin bread. Seriously love it. And if you have a low-carb recipe for it, please let me know. I know a lot of people who live for the first day Starbucks has pumpkin-spice coffees. Not me. First . . . no Starbucks. And second, I don’t really care for flavored coffee of any kind.

I’ve been making a lot of jams and fruit butters this summer. And I decided I wanted to try a pumpkin butter. After all, I had a couple cans of pumpkin. I knew I wanted to use pretty much the same flavor profile as I do for my pumpkin bread. And I also wanted to cook it in the slow cooker. Oh, and I wanted to can it. But then I learned you aren’t supposed to anymore. But there are alternatives.

First, the recipe. After an Internet search, I decided to base my version on this recipe. Both recipes call for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Make sure it’s just pumpkin and not pie filling. Of course, you can use fresh pumpkin as well.

 

One of the best things about making things yourself, of course, is being able to flavor it as you’d like. I like my pumpkin pie/custard/pumpkin bread on the spicy side. So you’ll see that while my spices are the same as his, some of the amounts vary.

Don’t read the following sentence. I wanted to can it, and I do like some sweetness, so I had to add some kind of sugar. Okay, you can resume reading. My original plan was to go with the white and brown sugar, which is pretty standard. But I seem to have accumulated a couple of bottles of maple syrup. So I used a combo of cane sugar and maple syrup. Turned out to be a pretty tasty combo.

You’ll see I added lemon juice for a couple of reasons. First, to cut the sweetness; I really don’t like really sweet things. Then, okay, don’t read, I was planning to water bath it, so I’d need the acid.

I let it cook in the slow cooker. I let it go for about an hour on low. Then I put a couple of chopsticks under the lid and let it cook another hour. Finally, I took the lid off and cooked on high until it was the thickness I wanted. Be sure to stir occasionally throughout. You’ll probably want to stir more often once you put it on high.

The only problem I have with this recipe is the sweetness. It’s a little too sweet for me. Next time, I’ll probably cut back a bit on the sugar. As for the spice blend, it hits the spot–for me. Be sure to spice according to your preferences. If you’re thinking about giving as a gift, you may want to go a bit lighter on the spices.

This pumpkin butter can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge.

OR

Okay, this section is not for the faint of heart.

You can, can it.

I followed the instructions in the site posted earlier. My recipe got me 3 half-pints for my pantry.

You can read again now.

Of all the things I’ve made lately, this has got to be one of my favorites. It’s probably a good thing I used smaller jars because I could very easily sit there and eat an entire jar.

You can find my version here.

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