Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Butter side up

A spate of pumpkins sits on our "harvest table" on the front patio.  A couple of standard oranges and several marina de chioggia variety.  Not the most inspiring looking pumpkin on the outside, I assure you.  One of the orange samples came off the vine prematurely as we were attempting to elevate the fruit off of the ground.  As such, I designated it the test pumpkin and yesterday got cool enough to roast it up.  Split, seeded and into the oven at 350F until a knife inserts easily into the flesh.

Once cooled, I scooped the flesh from the skin, and deposited it safely in my Crockpot.  It was a bit more fibrous than I had hoped (or wanted), but a determined treatment with the Bamix with chopping blade made satisfactory work of most of the longer strands, although I did end up removing a half dozen or so clumps over the course of the cooking.

 ~5 quarts of pumpkin puree

Once everything was satisfactorily processed, I added the sugars and spices and stirred them in, setting the Crockpot to high and topping with the lid, elevated on chopsticks placed across the mouth of the cooker (to allow water to evaporate from the butter).

Sugar and spice and everything nice

Mixed in

After the butter began to bubble, I turned the Crockpot to low and cooked overnight plus 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.  The butter reduced to 20-25% of original volume, a deep rich brown collection of deliciousness.  I once again treated the butter to the immersion blender, this time with the blender blade in order to finish off any lingering strands of fiber as well smooth consistency of the finished butter.  

Unfortunately, due to it's low acidity and high viscosity, pureed pumpkin and squash is not well suited to safe home canning.  The low acidity makes boiling water treatment unfeasible, and the high viscosity/density makes pressure canning ineffective, as the puree is inconsistent in reaching the necessary core temperature for safety.  Because of this, preservation should be limited to refrigerator for short term storage and freezer for long term.  So, once my pumpkin butter was cooled I transferred it to containers and into the fridge for final cooling before a trip to the freezer (with a little set aside for tomorrow's toast).

Good enough to eat

Crockpot Pumpkin Butter

5qt pumpkin puree
1 C packed dark brown sugar
2 C granulated sugar (if using a more suitable/mature pumpkin, this amount could be reduced to 1 C)
2 T ground cinnamon
1 tsp each ground cloves, allspice, and ginger
1/4 tsp fresh shaved nutmeg

  • Place puree in crockpot (or make in crockpot if using an immersion blender).
  • Add spices and sugar and stir in to puree.
  • Cook on high until beginning to bubble.  Reduce heat to low, cover with an elevated lid and cook 10-12 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Place cooled butter in clean containers and store in refrigerator and/or freezer.
Serve on toast, mixed in to yogurt or cottage cheese, or over the top of ice cream or cake.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Now bring us some figgy pudding

I've been on an ice cream making kick of late (as this blog indicates).  One of my contacts on Google Plus recently posted about her attempts to recreate a flavor from her youth, honey sweetened vanilla ice cream.  I loved the idea of pairing the warmth of honey with vanilla, but I wanted to incorporate an early harvest of figs into the ice cream, both to make use of them, and to challenge myself to make use of fruit as it comes available from the property.

Early harvest bounty

I took 8 figs, washed them and cut the tops and bases from them.  Once cleaned and processed, I cut them into quarters and then roughly chopped them.  I added them to a saucepan with approximately 1/2 C orange juice and a tablespoon of orange zest, and cooked down to a thick, jammy consistency.  After cooling overnight in the fridge, I hit the mixture with an immersion blender with chopping blade and pulsed on low to a rough chop consistency.

Processed fig mixture

I made one mistake with Kath's recipe, using regular whipping cream instead of heavy whipping cream (a purchasing error on my part), and while the finished ice cream was missing a little richness, it was still delicious.  As a bonus, I was preparing the ice cream for a family gathering, and one of my aunts had been put on a restricted diet that kept her from eating refined sugars - and this ice cream fit the bill perfectly.  The honey and cooked fig flavors are warm and caramel-y, which is offset wonderfully by the brightness of the citrus.

Finished deliciousness

This was my final recipe, as adapted from Kath's version:

Honey Sweetened Vanilla with Orange Figs
  • 1 C whole milk, well chilled
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 2 C whipping cream, well chilled (Kath's recipe calls for heavy whipping cream)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 figs, washed, quartered and chopped - tips and buds removed
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1 T orange zest

Place chopped figs, orange juice and zest in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook down to a jam-like consistency and cool overnight.  Process fig mixture roughly with an immersion blender and chopping blade.

Whisk together milk and honey, until honey is completely incorporated.  Warming the honey slightly will ease the incorporation process.  Once combined, stir in the whipping cream and return to refrigerator to chill.

Add dairy mixture to ice cream maker and process for 25-30 minutes.  Add fig mixture to ice cream maker and process approximately 5 minutes to incorporate.  Remove ice cream to air tight container and freeze 6+ hours to set.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

If you like pina coladas...

In a follow up to my previous experiments with pina colada ice cream, I think success has been achieved.  Some of the changes detailed in my previous discussion, combined with some great input from the good folks at r/cooking combined to make a winning combination of rich coconut sweetness, pineapple bite and toasted warmth.

Nearing perfection

So, what was different in this new batch of ice cream?  Pineapple juice reduced to a syrup, a change from heavy whipping cream to half-and-half, and the addition of toasted pineapple.

  • 1 C pineapple juice, reduced to 1/4 C
  • 14 oz coconut milk
  • 12 oz half-and-half
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C crushed pineapple
  • 1/3 C toasted coconut
Cook pineapple juice down in a small sauce pan until reduced by 75%.  Cool pineapple juice separately while whisking together coconut milk and granulated sugar.  Stir in half-and-half and chill.

Combine chilled pineapple "syrup" with dairy mixture and add to ice cream maker.  Toast 1/3 C sweetened coconut until nutty brown.  With 5 minutes remaining in ice cream mix, add coconut and crushed pineapple.

Store in an airtight container and freeze for 3-4 hours to set.

Monday, September 3, 2012

...and getting lost in the rain

I was lucky enough to pick up a fully functional and all parts intact Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for $13 at a local thrift store last week.  After a successful sorbet adventure using Galia melon, I decided it was time to try my hand at a little recipe creation - the first target: Pina-Colada ice cream.

I postulated a basic recipe:

  • 6 oz pineapple juice
  • 14 oz coconut milk
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 C crushed pineapple
Whisk together the liquid ingredients and the sugar until the sugar is dissolved, 1-2 minutes.  Once all is combined, chill in the refrigerator.  Add ice cream ingredients as per ice cream machine's directions, and mix according to machine guidelines - mine calls for 25-30 minutes.  5 minutes before completion, add crushed pineapple and allow machine to process.  Scoop into freezer safe container and allow to rest 4-5 hours before service.

Pineapple juice, sugar and coconut milk mixed together

Heavy whipping cream whisked in

The process begins

Pineapple added

Getting ready to transfer

4 hours later

So, what was the final verdict?  Yummy, without a doubt!  But, there were a few shortcomings that will be addressed in future iterations.
  1. Heavy build up of frozen fat on the wall of the ice cream maker.  I suspect this is due to the heavy fat content (heavy whipping cream + coconut milk).  I plan to alter the recipe by changing the heavy whipping cream for half-and-half, and reducing the quantities of both coconut milk and dairy, as well as increasing the quantity of pineapple juice.
  2. Missing a flavor layer.  There's just "something" missing, and the consensus was that it needed a warm, nutty flavor to complement the sweetness of the coconut and the acid of the pineapple.  I think that toasted coconut may be the path to this.
My next iteration recipe will look something like this:
  • 10 oz pineapple juice
  • 10 oz coconut milk
  • 1.5 C half-and-half
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 C toasted coconut

The joys of experimentation lie ahead!