One of the things that I used to really love about fall in central Illinois was the trips to the local apple orchard. When we were there, we would always pick up jars of their apple butter as well as a jar or two of pumpkin butter. For a birthday gift for Dan one year I even had it shipped out here for him - a much too expensive solution for our long term pumpkin butter needs. I decided to try my hand at it this year. Since it was a spur of the moment decision, I used canned pumpkin rather than doing it from scratch. From scratch is definitely a future goal.
I guesstimated out how much of the spices and sugar to use. In the end, it was not enough for our liking. Once I have the recipe down, I will share it with you all. I think that more sugar would have made this batch much better. As it was, the pumpkin flavor was good but not sweet enough for a butter. The cloves and cinnamon amounts seemed correct but having to use powdered ginger over fresh was also a big disadvantage. I am also contemplating replacing the fresh ground nutmeg with some mace to kick up the nutmeg flavor in the butter.
I mixed all the ingredients and put them into the mini-slow cooker that came with our big one. This mini slow cooker has always done a good job of keeping appetizers warm for parties, but would it actually cook down the pumpkin into a butter? We plugged it in after dinner, and I wondered how many hours it was going to take. The recipe I was working off of made it sound like this would take several hours - around 10 or so. I was wondering if this was just too long of a time or not, so I placed the lid with a vent on the mini cooker and watched a movie coming back to the pot to stir every now and then.
The mini slow cooker worked very well, actually too well. Too much of the liquid cooked off for our liking after only five hours. It made for an extremely pasty butter. I was slightly disappointed in the results and wished I would have watched the cooking better than I had. It also tasted good, but it was not an exact match for the one I was trying to mimic. A tasty first try to be sure but not the last try. I suspect that I will be making more of this during the fall and winter months.
From one can of pumpkin, I got two half pints of my butter experiment. Now I know that there are differing opinions as to water bath canning versus pressure canning, vs freezing of pumpkin purees. I decided on just freezing mine. I am very much a safer than sorry kind of person and tend to want to follow the guidelines on this kind of thing. One of the reasons they recommend only freezing pumpkin is the viscosity of the puree makes it hard for the heat to fully penetrate the jars, and with how thick this butter turned out, I believe them. Another thing that I have read is that pumpkins have a very inconsistent pH level and therefore it is hard to pin down processing times. Who knows? I not being a food scientist have decided to err on the side of caution and just freeze it.
Hopefully more experimentation will result in a recipe I like enough to share. Till then, let me know if you have any killer pumpkin butter recipes you think I should try.