by Kate Heyhoe
Orange and yellow colored vegetables are rich in beta carotene. What benefits does this offer?
First, animals ingest beta-carotene from plant sources and our bodies then convert it to Vitamin A. Studies have shown that taking beta-carotene supplements in pill form showed no effect, but ingesting natural forms of beta carotene from fruits and vegetables can be positive, results which have been confirmed by the National Cancer Institute.
Beta carotene is one of many antioxidants, substances which combat the effects of free radicals, the molecule groups that damage body cells and may promote cancer. So beta-carotenes are the "good guys" and "free radicals" the outlaws.
We usually think of pumpkins as Halloween decorations or as pies at Thanksgiving. In her The Good Stuff Cookbook, Helen Witty serves a comforting Spiced Pecan and Pumpkin Butter (below) that uses fresh or canned pumpkin. Make it in a large batch and can in jars for use all year long. It's a delicous way to make sure you're adding that extra bit of beta carotene to your diet. After all, we need all the "good guys" we can get!
The Good Stuff Cookbook, by the way, is filled with over 300 recipes for spreads, pickles, preserves, charcuterie, mustards and other homemade creations.
Pumpkin is one of the few things put up in cans that can be commended to even the fussiest cook. The butter is delectable on toast or any hot bread, or on pancakes, waffles, of French toast in place of syrup. It's also delicious over ice cream or frozen yogurt.
If you have a fresh "pie" or sugar pumpkin—not a jack o' lantern variety, which will be both watery and stringy after cooking-prepare it by paring, cubing, and steaming until very tender (this can be done in a covered casserole in the oven), then pushing the flesh through a sieve or the fine disk of a food mill. If the puréed pumpkin is too moist—which it is if liquid quickly seeps from a sample spooned onto a plate—line a colander with cheesecloth and drain the purée for a hour or so. To make enough purée for this recipe, start with a good-sized pumpkin, say 5 pounds.
Hard-fleshed winter squash (Hubbard, etc.) can be used instead of pumpkin; prepare it in the same way.
Zest (outer peel only, no white pith) of 1 orange, or zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon, removed in wide strips with a swivel peeler
1 large can (29 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin plus 1/2 cup water, or
3-1/2 to 4 cups pumpkin purée prepared from scratch (see the headnote)
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar or
1-1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup mild honey or light corn syrup
3 tablespoons strained fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted and grated or very finely chopped
Makes about 5 cups
1. Simmer the orange zest in 2 cups water in a sauce pan for 10 minutes, then drain it and mince it to a fine pulp. Measure out 1 tablespoon and reserve.
2. Combine in a heavy-bottomed stainless-steel or other nonreactive saucepan the pumpkin (and water, if canned pumpkin is used), orange zest, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, allspice ginger, and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; lower the heat and simmer the mixture, stirring it very often with a wooden spatula, until it has become very thick, about 15 minutes. Sample the butter and add a little more of any or all of the spices, if you like (remember, the flavors will blossom in storage). Add more sweetening if your tastebuds request it.
3. Stir in the nuts and continue to cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Ladle the boiling-hot pumpkin butter into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Seal the jars with new 2-piece canning lids according to manufacturer's instructions. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Cool, label, and store for up to a year a cool cupboard.
The Good Stuff Cookbook
by Helen Witty
410 pages; 1997
reprinted by permission
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2007
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