Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Butter (the easy way...)

I hate winter. I hate that I can't feel my toes for three months out of the year, and that the tips of my fingers are always blue. I hate that burrow myself in my homemade cave, and STILL can't find any warmth. And I hate that feeling I get, in Fall, when I bask in the sheer beauty of the season, only to remember that Fall is shortlived and winter is coming.

But, if I happen to be making pumpkin butter while in one of these particularly grumbly moods, my smell and tastebuds are powerful creatures, and can actually turn my mood around! (Matt is VERY thankful for my little mood switchers...) THEN, Fall is luscious and spicey and warm...and winter doesn't seem all that bad, IF I have a supply of pumpkin butter on hand.

I have never made pumpkin butter from a real pumpkin and here is why: I have never grown pumpkins (yet.) When you don't grow your OWN pumpkin, paying $4.00 for a pumpkin (plus doing all the prep work) doesn't seem worth it when I spy a can of pumpkin puree for $1.20 at the grocery store.

Next year, I hope to plant many Many MANY a pumpkin (because I am sick to death of the ridiculous prices that they are sold for and frankly, I LIKE having pumpkins around IF I didn't have to scoop into our retirement funds to do it!) When I do grow my own pumpkins, then it would be worthwhile to do it from scratch. But for now, I can get my pumpkin butter fix the easy way. And so can you!

Just four little ingredients are all you need:

29 oz. can of pumpkin puree
4 1/2 c. sugar
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
1 pkg. sure jell

Mix first three ingredients together in a saucepan, stirring on medium high heat until really hot. Then, add sure jell and boil hard for 1 minute.

Ta DA!

Pumpkin products are not recommended for hot water bath canning, though I have known people to do it and get away with it just fine. But it SURELY wasn't me. Nope. Not I said the fly. Hear me now, as I shout from the rooftop:

I hereby state, that I do not endorse this sort of canning criminal act, and certainly don't recommend it! Nor do I accept any responsibility for the sickness thereby produced by inappropriate canning methods.

Pumpkin butter (and other pumpkin products) CAN be frozen so-there is a way for all to be right with the world this winter.

IF it can make it to the freezer.

Edited 3/19/13:  I have, since posting this recipe, had many successful years of growing pumpkins and have used my homegrown pumpkins instead of canned pumpkin very successfully.  Simply boil/roast fresh pumpkins and then puree insides.  I then measured 29 ounces of puree with my kitchen scale.  Either way- a winning recipe.  :-)
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Caramel Popcorn Balls

Nothing says "old fashioned treat" as much as popcorn balls. And nothing says Fall as much as popcorn balls. And nothing says "easy, fun entertainment" as much as popcorn balls.

It was only fitting then, that I make them for an Octoberfest party. So I made them, about a hundred to be exact! (Have no fear, I doubled the recipe-you'll NOT end up with 100 popcorn balls. Unless you are a nitwit like me, and double it. Then, I am afraid, you'll be drowning in flying popping kernels.

These really are easy peasy and oh-so-good.

Try them. You'll like 'em.

You'll need:

1 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn

1/4 c. butter

1 c. packed brown sugar (I used the dark kind)

1/2 c. light corn syrup

2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk

1/2 t. vanilla extract

Now, to get started.

Pop your corn in an airpopper , on the stove with a bit of oil, or in the microwave (probably three bags I'd guess?). My handy dandy air popper was mode of choice. I love that thing. If you, like me, have/use/love airpoppers, please remember not to put ALL the corn in at once. Most poppers can only pop 1/2 c. at a time. There. Consider yourself forewarned!)

Once it is all popped, place all those light and luscious puffs in a large brown paper grocery bag (told you it was old-fashioned!) and get to work on the caramel. HOW, you ask?

Here's how:

In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer inserted, combine butter, sugar and corn syrup. Stir well. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Stir in milk (the sweetened kind. Don't forget!) and simmer, stirring constantly....until thermometer reaches 238 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour this wonderful ooey, gooey goodness overtop of your now-popped popcorn. YES. Do it right in the bag! It won't stick, promise. Just, you know, hit the POPCORN and not the sides of the bag, would ya? Then, close up the top and give it a good shake up. OR, mix it with a spatula. How you mix it reflects much of your personality. So, think on that.

Here comes a trick, so pay attention. Right about now that popcorn is just begging to be formed into balls. Because, let's face it. Caramel popcorn just isn't as old-fashioned as caramel popcorn BALLS.

One COULD butter their hands and get down to business. Or, the brave (and dumb) could jump right in without the butter and really regret their mistake in nanosecond. But I have a little TRICK for you. See? I share the tricks AND the treats, because I am really giving like that. The trick for this treat is this (say that five times fast!): Put your hands in plastic sandwich baggies and scoop up some butter/crisco to lather them up. No sticking at all. No MESS at all. AND-it even helps to protect your hands from any still-scalding kernels that might be lurking about.

Kids enjoy this last step of the recipe too, so don't leave them out. In fact, why don't you just let them do ALL of the dirty work? Er, since you ARE using the plastic baggie tip I just shared with you, how 'bout you let them do just the WORK? ;-)

PS. Yes. The top photo shows dirty fingernails. I live in the COUNTRY, fer goodness' sake! Give me a break! Especially when I am making 100 popcorn balls, two apple crisps, two chocolate chip pumpkin breads, AND pumpkin butter.

Sheesh. Never catch a break, do I?!?
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