For me, nothing evokes living in the country quite like fruit butters. A warm, soft biscuit fresh from the oven burnished with apple butter, and immediately I’m curled up in the kitchen of a farmhouse like a cat in the sun; lazily listening to chickens cluck outside as they peck hungrily, staccato-like, at the ground. And I’m once again in Parker’s kitchen.
When I was very young, and my mother went back to work, she found an older woman, Mrs. Parker, to look after me during the week. This was long before the burgeoning day care options that we now enjoy and my mother endured some criticism from well-meaning friends for her decision. But the truth is, it was the beginning of one of the most important relationships from my childhood; one that anchored me in ways I only fully appreciated as I grew older.
Parker, as I called her, had a tiny house flanked by flower gardens on one side; and fruit trees, concord grape vines, and a huge vegetable garden on the other. In between, assorted work sheds that somehow survived each Pennsylvania winter; a rambling chaos of hundreds of blackberry bushes; and a chicken coop. For a child, it was a wonderland of something new to explore everyday.
Inside the house, her simple kitchen was bright and sunny, filled with pots of herbs. Next to the stove was a stool, so I could watch her canning. Many afternoons, before taking me home, she poured us both a cup of tea, and we shared a warm biscuit slathered with the apple butter she made from her apples, as we talked about our day together. It made me feel so grown up, drinking hot tea in her chipped cups, and to this day, my love of relaxing over an afternoon cup of freshly brewed tea served with cream and sugar, accompanied by warm biscuit blanketed with fruit butter, is a legacy of those lazy, loving afternoons in Parker’s kitchen.
This pumpkin butter recipe is dedicated to her memory, and her gift to me of a love for preserving the fruits of the season. I roasted my first pumpkin last month, and have been making all kinds of pumpkin-y things for several weeks now, as if I just discovered pumpkins for the first time. So it was only natural that one of the things I would make, and share, would be pumpkin butter for a biscuit.
Honey-Maple Pumpkin Butter
- The sweetening for this fruit butter comes from the apple cider, honey and maple syrup, and uses less sweetening than most recipes I’ve seen. This is largely because the pumpkin is roasted in the oven, which naturally sweetens it through the baking process. If you use canned pumpkin purée, you may need to use a little more honey and/or maple syrup.
- 1 sugar pie pumpkin, about 2 pounds
- 1 cup apple cider
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Slice the pumpkin into 4 -5 large sections. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pump and discard (unless you want to save them for roasting!). Place the pumpkin slices on a baking sheet with the cut side facing down, and roast until soft, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and when cool enough to be handled, peel and cut into large cubes. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade and process until completely smooth. Pour into a medium saucepan.
- Over medium heat, reheat the pumpkin purée and add the rest of the ingredients. Adjust the honey and maple syrup to taste, and simmer until the pumpkin butter is the consistency of applesauce. The time can vary based on the amount of moisture in the pumpkin, but this took me about 10 minutes. It’s ready when you can scoop up a little on a spoon, turn the spoon so that it’s perpendicular to the pot, and no pumpkin butter slides off.
- Make some biscuits, and brew some tea. Sit by the window with a good book, and spread some of this pumpkin goodness on a warm biscuit. In the midst of the busy holiday season, exhale and appreciate life and all its gifts.
- Stir into some yogurt, if you must.
- Pour into small jars and give as a gift.
- Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.