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Pumpkins And Anniversaries

Yay!  Just turned on Pandora and Chatanooga Choo Choo by the Glenn Miller is on.  Music is amazing for my mood 🙂  I was born in the wrong era.  Maybe I wasn’t born in the wrong era, but put here to help bring back things that should never have faded out of memory!…..Anyway, if I use lots of smiley faces and exclamation marks, it’s because I am in a great mood.

About a month ago now, we began harvesting our pumpkins, and it made me SOOO happy!  Pumpkins were that one thing that I had decided to plant extra of in spring because I wanted to try selling them.  Next year I want to expand what we grow and set up a more official roadside stand, but that wasn’t in the cards this year.  But pumpkins…pumpkins were my one simple attainable goal for the year, and I succeeded!  We spent a decent amount of time trying to get that plot of land ready for planting, but it was so worth it.  That field produced lots of corn, sunflower, squash, and of course, pumpkins.  Honest to goodness, I never once watered that patch of land.  I let God do the watering, and with the help of the mulch, it worked terrifically.

Now Boogy Woogy Bugle Boy is playing.  EEE!  So happy 🙂  Sorry for the tangent!  Back to pumpkins.  We planted Cinderella, Baby Boo, Sugar and Big Moose pumpkins this year, and I am really happy with the varieties I chose.  Next year I want to diversify even more.  We are contemplating potentially having a pick-your-own patch eventually, but not until the barn comes down and everything gets cleaned up over there, so definitely not next year.

Front porch, Sugar and Cinderella Pumpkins, and Butternut Squash.

Right after harvest, I picked out enough pumpkins for decorating and cooking that I wanted to keep for our own use and brought them up to the house.  This week I finally got around to actually doing something with the pumpkins.  The front porch got a few fall decorations… pumpkins and squash on the stairs, cornstalks on the porch pillars and a wreath next to the door.

I have an old wooden box ( I think it was once a soap form?) that I use as a centerpiece…a few Baby Boos, some pumpkin scented candles, a fall ribbon, a few cinnamon pine cones, and some fabric leaves and flowers.  (No, I won’t be lighting the candles, but if I wanted to do that, I’d get candles in glass holders.)  We scattered a few more on ledges around the house as well.

Fall Centerpiece

After setting out the fall decor, I cut open a Cinderella pumpkin.  I heard they are good baking pumpkins, but before touting what great pies they make, I had to give it a go myself.  I cut the pumpkin in half through it’s middle instead of stem to flower end.  Scooping the insides was a breeze.  The insides were not super slimy like some pumpkins.  We got over 250 seeds out of the pumpkin ( I think it was a medium-sized one)…yeah, I had to count.  (In the Mood)  We roasted most of the seeds, but I took out all of the nicest, plump seeds I could (about 80?) to save for planting next year.  They are drying right now.

Once the pumpkin was opened and gutted, I cut the pumpkin into slices along the grooves on the outside to make pie-shaped wedges.  Both halves filled two jelly roll pans.  I had to cut a few slices into smaller chunks to get everything to fit but it worked.  Then I poured a thin layer of water into the pans and put them into the oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour.  (The water will cook out of the pan by the end.)

After they cooled down quite a bit, I was able to easily skin the meat of the pumpkin.  Then each slice was cut into chunks somewhere around 1″-2″ in size, until I had done the whole thing.

Next I filled my blender near to full with pumpkin chunks and pureed until smooth.  If you can’t get rid of large chunks, it hasn’t been cooked long enough.  I poured the puree into another large bowl.  All in all, I got around 20 cups of pumpkin puree from one medium sized Cinderella pumpkin.  That’s pretty awesome.  There will be no pumpkin shortage in our house!

Right to left, cubed pumpkin, pumpkin in blender, yet to be blended, and pureed pumpkin in white bowl.  This blender full was about the half-way point through the pumpkin.

Store bought pumpkin puree isn’t really pumpkin puree.  It’s a variety of squash, mainly butternut, but technically, pumpkin is squash so…  They pretty much taste the same.  The differences that you will notice are in color and consistency.  Homemade pumpkin puree is kind of watery and it’s not dark, it’s pretty bright.  If you wanted to reduce the water, you could roast it down in the oven or boil it down on the stove.  Since it’s gritty, if you strained it through something like a coffee filter, you could get out a lot of the excess water.  If you are substituting homemade pumpkin for canned in a pie recipe, it takes longer for it to bake, and it’s lighter both in texture and in color compared to store bought, canned pumpkin.

So what did I do with all of that pumpkin?  Well,  I made two pies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin-applesauce muffins, and pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  8 cups of puree got frozen in 2 cup increments in small freezer bags, and I have another cup or so waiting in the refrigerator to get used up in some other recipe.  I can’t wait to cut up another pumpkin just for the seeds.

My favorite way to cook the seeds?  Gut the pumpkin,remove seeds, wash your seeds thoroughly, coat with 1Tbsp.+ olive oil, sprinkle with salt and stir.  Spread in a single layer on a jelly roll pan (or other baking dish, whatever you have, but sides help so you don’t accidentally spill them).  Roast in the oven at 350F until you can begin to smell them. Watch to make sure they don’t get burnt, they will JUST begin to turn brown, and that’s when you take them out.  The are nice and crispy, not chewy.  If you let them sit out and dry, you can store them in a jar on the counter for 2 weeks.  No soaking, no turning.  Sometimes I’ll sprinkle with other seasonings as well, but salt is my go-t0.  Easy peasy!  I didn’t make a huge pan, but we polished them off in about 5 minutes or less.

The kids tried a few pieces of the roasted pumpkin and they loved it.  Nothing added, just warm.  Next time I cook one of these Cinderellas, I will serve part of it as dinner, maybe with some butter and brown sugar.  Hmmm…maybe tomorrow night???

I don’t know if you can tell, but I am excited!  I love fall.  Fall is THE best.  My absolute favorite season.  I love them all for different reasons, but fall.  The cool air is so refreshing, especially since we get pretty humid summers, and the end of summer is always the hottest.  When the cool breeze rolls in it feels like heaven!  And who doesn’t love the colors, the sound of the wind in the trees.  I absolutely love grey skies.  This spring was the only time I ever felt sad looking at a grey sky, but I’m back to my old self again.  Grey skies make me so incredibly happy.  They mean curling up with a cozy blanket, snuggles with the kids, some relaxation and lots of reading.  After this crazy year, I need it!

Speaking of crazy years…this year has been crazy and absolutely amazing.  It has most definitely been a hard, stressful year, but Scott and I agreed that this has by far been our favorite year to date.  In one year we moved, settled in, had baby no. 5, continued to homeschool, decided to begin homesteading, prepared our largest gardens, planted, harvested, raised chickens (something new to us), tomorrow we butcher for the first time ever…We worked on making the home and property our own, helped a friend with a big move, and started a blog.  It has been one wild and crazy ride.  I don’t ever want to do it again, but I loved it.

Our wedding day.  Love you, Hon!

In addition to celebrating one year of living here at the beginning of the month, yesterday we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!  It’s been an amazing 9 years, and I’m so glad that I am sharing it all with him.  From our apartment to this house, from bad cooking to…better cooking, skinny us to 5-kids-later us, “city” life to country life, being a seamstress while he took online courses to get his bachelors, and did I mention 5 kids?  We have been through a lot, but every event, good or bad has made our relationship stronger.  When we started dating, the one thing that we knew we had to have was good communication.  When things are stressful or frustrating, when we are mad or sad, we talk it through, no matter how frustrating or annoying or difficult it may be, and it gets easier all of the time.  We are always working on being better.  I like to tell him we are going to live to be 120, well, he’d have to live to be 122, because I want to make it to 120, and we’ll die old together.  🙂  It’s going to be an interesting 92 years!

I hope you are all having a wonderful fall!  If you live in the area, come stop by and pick up some pumpkins, either for baking or decorating, and have a beautiful, wonderful, cool, cloudy day!



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