All posts by Irena

Pumpkin Butter

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the size of your winter squash harvest.  But not to worry.  Winter squash will keep for months if undamaged, cured well, and stored well.  If you have enough pumpkin recipes and squash recipes, you won’t get tired of it. Pumpkin butter is delicious, and it’s not hard to make two months’ worth at once.Oct 2016 (26) Pumpkin butter on biscuit croppedFeb2015 (45) squash for squash butter prcsdFeb2015 (51) squash for squash butter cropped

 

Start by cutting any kind of pumpkin or other winter squash in half or quarters. Scoop out the seeds, and for best texture, scrape out the stringy pulp around the seeds. Lay the squash on a baking sheet. Some prefer face up; others prefer face down. We cooked ours face up. You’ll retain the most moisture in your squash if you cook it face down, with a little water in the pan.

Bake the squash until it is easy to put a fork through it.  We baked ours for a little over an hour.  Large chunks of very large squash would take longer.

When the baked squash is cool enough to handle, scrape it off the skin.  Even if the skin is tender and soft enough to be palatable with a chunk of squash, the texture of the pumpkin butter will be much better (and more buttery!) without it.Oct 2016 (14) Pumpkin butter cropped

Now it’s time to add spices and sugar.  We used one part sugar for every four parts squash.  We also added cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  Sorry, we didn’t measure the spices; we just tasted the spiced pumpkin and added a few more pinches of ginger.  Some people add orange zest, but we didn’t.

When you’ve mixed the spices into the squash, put it back in the oven.   Ours made a layer about 2 inches deep in a steam table tray, and we baked it for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees the second time around.  If you spread yours into a thinner layer, you’ll probably want to bake it for less time.

I like pumpkin butter the most when some areas have just started to turn dark brown and caramelize.

Oct 2016 (31) Ken eats pumpkin butter on a biscuit prcsd

While Ken was planting spinach in the garden,  I brought him a biscuit with a thick layer of fresh pumpkin butter.

We like to put our pumpkin butter in mason jars, but we don’t can it.  It’s not acidic enough to be canned in a boiling water bath, and pressure canning might ruin the texture.  We’ll store these jars in the refrigerator for up to a couple of months.

Oct 2016 (44) Pumpkin butterYou might also want to try the pumpkin jam recipe that was recently featured in our e-newsletter.

 

Squash Souffle, 2 styles

Have you ever wondered what to do with winter squash that still haven’t gotten completely ripe when frost hits?  Seed grower and heirloom advocate Rodger Winn told us about a family recipe for squash souffle while we visited his farm one summer.Jul2015 (811) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

It starts with intermediate-maturity squash.Jul2015 (806) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsd

Most squash recipes call for either winter squash, which are harvested at full seed maturity, or summer squash, which are harvested when the seeds are just beginning to develop.  Most squash varieties that are bred for use as summer squash, if allowed to get to the stage of seed maturity, will be unappetizing.  However, most squash that are bred to be winter squash, if you harvest them when the seeds are just beginning to mature, are a wonderful substitute for regular summer squash.  They’re also quite tasty in-between.

When your squash plants are on their last leg and many of the leaves have died, it’s not hard to find a squash that’s still immature; they’re just easy to see. And, when your first fall frost is around the corner and you’re doing your annual winter squash harvest, you’re bound to find a few immature fruits along with the mature ones. If the peel is tough,  you’ll need to peel them. If the seeds are tough, you’ll need to scoop them out.  (The seeds are likely to be tough unless the squash is just barely past the summer squash stage, but, depending on the variety, the skin might remain tender much longer.)

Irena’s Squash Souffle

I really liked the sound of Rodger’s recipe, but I didn’t remember the details, and I often don’t have the patience to measure ingredients.  Here’s how I made a squash souffle that my housemates and I really enjoyed.

Jul2015 (808) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsdJul2015 (810) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs a prcsdFirst, I cut an intermediate-stage Mrs. Amerson’s squash into big chunks. Mrs. Amerson’s is a moschata type, and I’m pretty confident that other squash in the moschata species, such as Seminole and Butternut, would produce very similar results.

I removed the seeds and the parts of the peel that were tough.  I sliced the squash thinly.  It wouldn’t all fit in one frying pan, so I put it in two. Those frying pans mostly gets used for savory dishes, but I didn’t worry about how their seasoning would affect this dish.

I let the squash cook a bit, stirring occasionally, while I beat about 10 eggs, then mixed them with about 5 cups of milk and about 2 cups of evaporated cane juice (i.e., sugar, but not as processed as most white or brown sugars).  I poured the mixture over the squash, sprinkled it with nutmeg, covered it, and cooked on low heat until the surface was solid.Jul2015 (812) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

I enjoy strong flavors, so the next morning as I was enjoying my squash souffle for the second time, I picked some Anise-Hyssop and Mexican Mint Marigold from the garden to eat with it.Oct2016 (296) squash souffle prcsd

Then, I decided to write this post, so I asked Rodger for the family recipe.  If you want to cook from a recipe, this is probably the one to use.

For Rodger’s South Carolina family, this is a Thanksgiving recipe.  They tend to get their first frost in early November.  Intermediate-maturity squash will keep just fine for a couple of weeks, and sometimes much longer, but won’t keep until spring.

Winn Family Squash Souffle

We use pumpkins that are almost mature but still have a green rind.  If they are too immature the pie will be mushy. Cut the squash lengthwise in 1 in strips and peel. Then slice very thin, about 1/8 in. Layer the slices in a pre baked pie crust till filled. For the custard use 1 or 1 1/2 cups white sugar or unrefined sugar, 2 cups milk, a tsp. of vanilla extract, and 3 eggs. Mix well. This is enough custard for two shallow pies, or one deep dish with a little left over. Then bake at 375 degrees untill set (about 45min to 1hr). Enjoy.

Growing Grain and Making Bread

Farm and Sparrow bakery in Candler, NC buys grain – especially Turkey Red hard winter wheat – from farmers, and grinds it to make flour, bread, and pastries. Jul2015 (442) oven at Farm and Sparrow bakery small

Ken and I visited Farm and Sparrow on our summer road trip, which we’ve also written about in posts about seed growers, breeders, and research stations, and most recently, using home-grown grain and why I care about locally grown grain.

The crew of Farm and Sparrow bakes bread and pastries in a wood-fired brick oven.  They sell to a local pizzeria as well as directly to consumers at several markets in nearby Asheville.  We greatly enjoyed the powerful fragrance of fresh flour in the milling room and the taste of their Heirloom Grit bread.

We also visited two of the farms that Farm and Sparrow buys from.Jul2015 (511) at Dayspring Farm small
DaySpring Farms in Commerce, Georgia is operated by Murray Brett and his son Nathan.  They grow Turkey Red wheat as well as NuEast hard red winter wheat, Appalachian hard white winter wheat, canola, corn, cowpeas, dry beans, and fresh vegetables. During our visit we picked up the Turkey Red wheat seed we’re now selling.  Murray and Nathan are enthusiastic about growing corn and legume seed crops for us in the future, and we hope to line them up with some crops next year.

The last stop of our two-week road trip was Looking Back Farm in the northeast corner of North Carolina.  There, Kenny Haines and his son Ben grow corn, wheat, cowpeas, and soybeans, much of it for Anson Mills. Jul2015 (744) at Looking Back farm small

They also do soybean trials for the Rural Advancement Foundation International.  Kenny has been growing organically since 1987, long before organic food was popular.  His wife was a nurse and insisted that their sons not be exposed to pesticides.

Looking Back Farm was one of the largest farms we visited on our trip.  They farm 350 acres, all by themselves, with more and more help from Ben’s sons.  They’re precision tractor operators, planting and weeding and harvesting all their crops with their equipment.  Like many of the farms we visited, they scale their work to their family’s labor, since it’s hard to find skilled farm workers who’ll commit to the work and the farm.

When we had the opportunity a couple years ago, we were happy to buy some Iron and Clay pea seeds from them, but generally they grow no less than 10 acres of any crop.   Southern Exposure’s inventories are small enough so that it would only make sense for them to grow seed for us if they were also growing the same crop for food or seed for someone else.

We asked David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow if Aug2015 (639) At Sub Rosa bakery, Richmond smallany other bakeries also mill grain and buy from farmers.  He mentioned Sub Rosa bakery in Richmond, VA.  When I visited Sub Rosa, baker Evrim Dogu was making Polenta bread with Bloody Butcher corn from our neighbor William Hale, who also grows seed for us.  The sourdough loaf we bought was very crusty on the outside and very creamy on the inside.  I usually prefer a more even-textured bread, but found this loaf deeply satisfying.Aug2015 (607) At Sub Rosa bakery, Richmond small