Learning by doing

Last weekend I learned a lot about two things: apple butter and pumpkin pie.  I have wanted to make my own apple butter for awhile, as it is one of my favorite things.  I have always wanted to make pumpkin pie totally from scratch and I took the time on my Monday off to do just that.

What I learned about apple butter and the canning thereof is this:  for me it is not worth the time and effort, when I can buy it fairly inexpensively around here.  I can even find it at the farmers market–good stuff made from scratch.  That being said, a better description of “doneness” might have helped me (when it “rounds up” on a spoon???).  I cooked it way past what it needed.  It tastes fine but is not the soft spread it is supposed to be.  I also peeled and cored the apples the old fashioned way, and I might not do that again.  I only netted two and 1/2 pints and I’m sure I could have bought it as cheaply.  I have an apple peeler-corer-slicer thing that I will bring out to take care of the rest of my current apple supply.  Applesauce is easy and I will freeze some for pies later.  Done and done.

 

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The  more successful venture by far was the roasted pumpkin for pie.  I tried two different types of pumpkins, both of which are supposed to be “pie” pumpkins.  The larger, paler-colored one actually yielded less finished pumpkin.  It was easier to cut, but the pumpkin meat was a much thinner layer inside.  I didn’t even get enough flesh for one whole pie out of one pumpkin.  However, the smaller ones that look more like traditional pumpkins on a smaller scale were great.  They are harder to cut, but have a much thicker lining of flesh inside.  I got at least twice as much useable cooked flesh from each pumpkin than I did with the larger ones.  They were quite a job to cut, but you only have to cut them in half and then bake them with some foil placed loosely over them and they are ready to scrape out and use.

I did put mine through a short process to make the flesh smoother (who wants stringy pie?)  Some I put through a food mill and some I put through a short whiz around the food processer.  Each was equally successful.  Just make sure you drain the excess liquid off and you will have a finished product just like what comes in a can.  It took 2 cups of pumpkin for the pie recipe I used, so I am freezing it in either one or two-cup batches.

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I used a crust made from scratch also, which is something I hadn’t done in many years.  I have gotten spoiled using Pillsbury’s already rolled out dough that you buy in the dairy section.  It is consistantly good and mine isn’t.  However, I didn’t have the store-bought dough in the house, but I did have the ingredients to make my own, so I took a chance and did it.  Success!  Beautifully golden, tender and flaky.  The trick is definitely COLD butter, ice water and again, my food processor.  If you are careful to pulse it as little as possible, it doesn’t tend to warm the butter and you can get that perfect texture.  I made it into a ball, pressed it into a small disc, wrapped it and stuck it in the fridge for awhile and when I rolled it out it was perfect. 

So I learned about apple butter–lots of effort for a small amount, but I may try a crockpot recipe I have for it and just refrigerate whatever it yields.  We’ll eat it pretty quickly anyhow.

And I learned that I can make my own pumpkin pie totally from scratch and be very happy with the results.  I have enough frozen pumpkin now for two more 9″ pies and some pumpkin bread waiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

AND, I saved the seeds from my favorite type of pie pumpkin….they are drying as we speak….so I can plant my own next summer.  Next October’s pumpkin pies will be even more “from scratch.” Woo hoo!

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