Saturday, 3 December 2011

Pumpkin weather

It's a miserable day today with rain and blustery winds - a perfect day for staying indoors and doing indoor things. While Tim is putting up lights in our cellier, I am converting half a Crown Prince pumpkin into preserve. This year we grew three types of pumpkin / winter squash:
  • Crown Prince - a variety originally from New Zealand and grown widely for its sweet, dense flesh. The name comes from the little warty ring like a crown around the flower end of the fruit. The skin is battleship grey and thin. The flesh is deep orange in colour and smells of apricots. Ours weigh in at up to four kilos and we got seven fruit from three plants, including two smaller ones. These keep in cool conditions until at least May of the following year. 
      Crown Prince - before the knife goes in
  • Butternut squash - two varieties of this, Harrier and Hunter, both grown for northern European conditions. Butternuts always produce a load of male flowers and take an age before any female flowers appear, but these varieties take off (sorry) a bit sooner than normal. We got a very good crop from both varieties - I've never seen either of them in France and Hunter actually came from the BBC's "Dig in" project. They look, taste and perform very much alike, producing a light-tan barrel-shaped or gourd-shaped squash that taste excellent and keep until at least March. We had to hand-pollinate to produce a decent crop - strip the petals off a male flower and dust the pollen into a female flower. Any kind of male squash flower will do for this, including courgette.
  • Red Kuri or Uchiki Kuri or Red Onion Squash - a Japanese name for the French potimarron. Graines Baumaux reckon that Red Kuri is a superior strain of potimarron, and sells seeds both of the Japanese and French strains. This is a very pretty, tasty squash, onion shaped, deep orange when ripe and comes in a nice range of sizes, from a few hundred grammes to a kilo and a half. It is truly prolific and  produces fruit much earlier than the other two. The flesh is less dense than butternut or Crown Prince, of a rich chestnut flavour. They don't keep as well as the other two, but still store well into the winter.
Red onion squash or potimarron

Here's the recipe for Pumpkin Preserve - thanks to Virginia Sandon for this!

To each 4lb / 1800g pumpkin you will require:
     4lb / 1800g sugar
     ½ lb / 225g butter (unsalted)
     juice and zest of 6 lemons

Remove seed and peel from pumpkin and cut into dice approximately ½ inch / 1cm square. I find it easiest to quarter a hard pumpkin like Crown Prince, remove the seeds, cut it into 1cm slices vertically, peel the slices then dice them. Steam the diced pumpkin for half an hour or until soft enough to penetrate easily with the tip of a sharp knife. If using soft moist pumpkin, place the cooked pumpkin in a muslin bag and drain overnight (not necessary with Crown Prince or butternut). Weigh the cooked pumpkin and measure the other ingredients accordingly.

Put everything in a preserving pan and bring gently to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil gently for 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The result should be a fairly thick spread; some little pieces of pumpkin may be expected. Put into warmed jars and seal.

This half yielded 3lb of cooked pumpkin

The yield from exactly 3lb of cooked Crown Prince was six Le Parfait "Home Made" 385ml jars. These jars are on special offer at Intermarché at the moment at €9.90 for twelve - that's a genuine bargain!
Potted up and cooling - then on with the labels.


GaynorB said...

Sounds interesting, Pauline.

How would this be eaten?

Tim said...

Hi Gaynor,
The resulting conserve is quite thick and smooth [with the exception of a few lumps of Crown Prince to add texture]. Personally, I like it on bread or toast... but it would make a very good filling for a sponge cake, or spread on a tea bread.
We've also considered using it as the base for an ice-cream.
Or, on that theme, splodged on top of vanilla, chocolate or coffee ice-cream.

There is also, on the cellier shelves [eventually, when we've found the box it is in...], the Pumpkin & Ginger Gloop... a similarly textured pumpkin conserve with bits of preserved ginger in... but not quite as thick.

Tim said...

Interesting... I've just noticed that [sitting here at 7.30AM on the 6th of December] that I appear to have posted this reply before I went to bed last night... Groundhog Day here we come!!