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Pumpkins 101

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So, this isn’t a recipe so much as a tutorial.  And it is inspired by the fact that recently I served one of the most tasteless pumpkin pies I’ve ever made.  And I don’t mean tasteless as in not so classy, I mean flavorless.  It was horrible.  And I didn’t do anything differently to my recipe, the only variable was the pumpkin that I pureed.  Which led me on my current quest to know more about identifying pumpkins for baking.  (The whipped cream I made was also bad because I forgot to add sugar, but I was distracted by my soon to be niece Meredith and her spice-adding skills).  

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So through meticulous internet and library research, I’ve learned a few things about pumpkins.  I’ve learned even more about pumpkins that are appropriate for baking.  

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1. The best varieties of pumpkins to chose for baking are cinderella, sugar pie, pink banana (actually a squash), baby pam, cheese pumpkins, and lumina.  You can also use butternut squash.

2. Pumpkins that are smaller and have darker skin tend to have more flavor.

3. The stringier the pumpkin, the less suitable for the pie.

4. Absolutely do not use your standard jack o’ lantern pumpkin.

5. Buy a few pumpkins, so you have plenty of pulp.

6. Just in case, you might want to grab a can of pumpkin puree.  Worst case scenario you can go halfsies and mix the Libby’s in with your hard work.

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I also did an experiment with four different sugar pie pumpkins, two larger and two smaller.  They all had the same color skin, but one had much darker pulp.  I used a can of Libby’s (100% pumpkin) canned pumpkin as a comparison.  

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Pumpkin #1:  Small, light pulp.  Smooth texture.  Medium flavor.

Pumpkin #2: Small, light pulp.  Kind of chunky.  Tasted like nothing.

Pumpkin #3: Large, dark pulp.  Very smooth texture.  Flavor close to that of the Libby’s pumpkin.  Incidentally, this is also the pumpkin I bought last week.

Pumpkin #4: Large, light pulp.  Smooth texture.  Medium to a lot of flavor.

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So, based on my experiment, here are the conclusions I came to:

1. When it comes to sugar pie pumpkins, medium-large size have more flavor.

2. The darker the pulp, the more flavor.

3. There is no correlation between skin color and pulp color.

4. Pumpkins with smoother texture have more flavor.

5. Older pumpkins may have more flavor

6. I need a new can opener.  

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I hope that, in some way, this helped with your quest to make the perfect pumpkin pie, from a fresh pumpkin.  I don’t think what I learned will necessarily help me in the grocery store, but, we’ll see.  Good luck!

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Mojito!

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Dan and I love mojitos.  And since we’re pretty much home-bodies, we like to learn how to make the cocktails we would usually drink out in the scary, noisy world, inside the comfort of our living room.  A mojito is ten times better when enjoyed in fuzzy socks.

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Mojito!

5 leaves mint

4 lime triangles

1 part white rum

4 parts tonic

1 part simple syrup

2 cups sugar (for syrup)

1 cup water (for syrup)

Boil your water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Set the syrup aside to cool.  In your glass, crush mint and lime.  Pour in your syrup and rum.  Top with tonic and ice.  Serve and enjoy.

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Mulled Apple Cider

I will be up front.  I hate being cold.  I loathe winter.  But I do love being inside, listening to Christmas carols, and drinking apple cider.  I’m totally fine with snow as long as I’m inside and it remains outside.  The second I have to don the GoreTex coat I got one year in college for Christmas (not the pea coat I asked for), I get cranky and upset.  So when our local farmer’s market started selling apple cider, I started feeling happier, despite the rapidly decreasing temperature.

Now I’ve watched enough Food Network and read enough food blogs to know that you can’t serve something straight, you need to tweak it to make it unique.  Except a Bojangles chicken biscuit.  You eat that bad boy just as it is, don’t bother with it.  Anyway, with apple cider you are taking a delicious base (the cider) and adding spices and just a little fruit to make it the embodiment of liquid holiday.  I suggest adding allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, sliced oranges, and whole cranberries.  Mmmmm mmmm, yummy.  It almost outweighs the cold.  Almost.

Mulled Apple Cider

1/2 gallon apple cider

1 orange, sliced

1/2 cup whole cranberries

2 tbsp allspice berries

5 cinnamon sticks

Put a large pot over heat.  Pour in cider.  Add fruit and spices.  In order to fully incorporate the flavors, you want to scald the cider, bring it to almost a boil.  Lower the temperature and simmer until you’re ready to serve.

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