This post is not about pumpkins. It’s about what to do with the various bits and pieces of pumpkins. We always enjoy creating our jack-o-lanterns each year around the end of October, and the last few years our daughter, Ella Rose, has decided that each of us needed to create our own jack-o-lanterns. You know, just to be fair. Of course this means a big mess and several bowls full of “leftovers.” I actually wasn’t even looking for ideas using our leftovers, but instead I stumbled on a really interesting idea that seemed like it would be worth a shot. The idea came from one of my favorite websites called instructables. This is a great site which is basically a community blog that anyone can contribute to. I have found instructions for difficult tasks such as building outdoor pizza ovens as well as instructions for such mundane tasks as how to clean and shine shoes. It really is a great source for any DIYer. The idea that captured my imagination was when I saw the title of an instructable called “pumpkin liqueur.” Just let those words sink in a bit…..that’s correct, pumpkin flavored booze….I believe no further convincing is required so I will continue. The instructable I used was this one. It has links to instructions for juicing a pumpkin (more on that later) and it covers the bottling of the liqueur as well.
To pursue this dream elixir I needed to get my hands on some fresh pumpkin. Of course this time of year you can’t throw a rock without hitting a pumpkin, but where could I get the best product and still be mindful of the size of my wallet and my environmental impact? The answer to these produce questions is usually the same.
Just about any local farmers market will have several varieties of pumpkins from early October until after the Halloween holiday. Not to mention that every time we have bought pumpkins from local farmers the price is about half compared to a big box or grocery store and I’m sure the quality is superior, especially since we were planning to consume a majority of our orange gourds. The great thing about this little project was we were going to use nearly every portion of the pumpkins. We would be creating jack-o-lanterns, roasting seeds, and using the guts and any excess flesh to make our juice and the magical elixir.
This will be my version of how we made our Pumpkin drink and some changes and struggles we had along the way.
For this creation we needed:
Guts and extra flesh from at least 4 pumpkins
1/4 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground cloves
1/4 teas ground allspice
pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
I’m sure many of you have had the pleasure of gutting pumpkins. There are a million techniques but it all really comes down to elbow grease. We started by pulling all the insides out and separating the flesh and the seeds
We always enjoy roasting our seeds. We spray the seeds down with olive oil, pour onto a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, and then add a sprinkle of salt. Stick them in the oven at 350 for 20-40 mins depending on how roasted you like them. Easy. This year we experimented a bit with our seasoning and did several batches using Old Bay seasoning. We all loved how it turned out!
Our next step was carving. We purchased a kit from the store for the occasion. It worked out well because the tools are created to be used by children and are much more safe than kitchen knifes. The designs included are also a bonus.
While the young ‘uns carved I began to ponder the best way to wring juice out of a pumpkin. We tried several techniques. I tried stewing the flesh to help break it down and release more moisture, I tried using our 10-year-old veggie juicer and I tried using cheese cloth to drain the guts. My best results came when I added a few cups of water to the guts and then stewed them on low heat for several minutes. This process helped add liquid to the pumpkin and the heating help release even more. After heating the guts I added them to the veggie juicer and let it rip. (I must add that at I did manage to completely destroy the juicer during my second batch, but to be fair it was almost dead before I even started due to age.) In the future I’ll have to come up with an alternative method. (Or buy another juicer.)
After juicing it was time to start cooking. The measurements I used are for adding to 4 cups of pumpkin juice. I added the spices (not the sugar) and then boiled the juice for several minutes to infuse the spices into the juice and to sanitize the product as well. After cooking I drained the juice through a cheese cloth to eliminate some of the solids left over by the spices. I then added that juice back to the pot again and then added the sugars. Next I heated it until the sugars had dissolved making this a “not so simple syrup.”
After dissolving the sugar the result is a very delicious syrup that can be the highlight to many different drink combinations. At this point you could continue to follow the instructions on the original recipe and make proper liqueur but I decided to leave the syrup as is so we could make a variety of drink sensations. Here are some of our favorites.
3 tbsp pumpkin syrup
1 tbsp vodka
3/4 cup sparkling wine
Pumpkin Tea (Greer’s favorite)
Glass of unsweet tea (decaf for our son, but that’s your choice)
2 tbsp pumpkin syrup
Pumpkin Coffee (move over Starbucks)
Make your coffee and add the syrup (Have you seen all the bad stuff on the ingredients list of store bought pumpkin coffee? Yikes!)
2 fingers of bourbon
a splash of syrup
1 ice cube
We really enjoy our little piece of autumn in a jar, but to create this syrup from scratch did require some effort. It was worth it and we will be revisiting this creation for many falls to come.
P.S. Tomorrow will be the day after Halloween! What better day to get a pumpkin on sale??!