Life Cycle of a Pumpkin, or How I Ate Audrey’s Last Baby for Breakfast

It wasn’t too long ago that my favorite Uncle Fred was puzzling his FaceBook followers with photos of a mysterious volunteer plant on his compost pile.  What was first speculated to be a sweet potato plant or a weed, turned out to be a pumpkin vine.

But not just any pumpkin vine… a monstrous, overlord-of-the-neighborhood kind of vine that was quickly dubbed “Audrey”.  You know, “Feed me, Seymour!”

Most of us chuckled as the Accidental Gardener kept us updated on the illegal growth of the plant that soon covered at least 100 square feet.  Audrey’s “children” were given away one by one, until finally, I was awarded the last of her progeny – a good-sized pumpkin I could just get my arms around.

I buckled Junior into the backseat and away we went, destined for many slices of spicy, whipped-topped goodness ahead of us.  A day or two gracing my countertop – and more than a few amused smirks from my husband – had me rethinking exactly how many pies I thought I could eat.

So what do you do with an excess of fruit or vegetables?  You can it, of course!  I didn’t want just plain pumpkin puree, so I found a tasty-sounding recipe for pumpkin butter – which has a lot of uses in other recipes.  And now I can spend the rest of the year nibbling on pumpkin butter pie, pumpkin butter bread, or just pumpkin butter on my morning toast.

   
 Scooped Out Pumpkin  Baked, Peeled, & Quartered  Spiced & Simmered!
   
Finished Jars ofPumpkin Butter Nothing Goes to Waste…Spiced Pumpkin Juice!

Thanks to Audrey, and Uncle Fred, for a project that went from volunteer plant to Autumn harvest in a pint-size jar!

Strawberry Salvation

It may be a small thing, but one of the great irritations of my life is getting a nice quart of strawberries from the store, then having them mildew and rot literally overnight.  I use strawberries in my fruit smoothies, on salads, as an afternoon snack (with crisp white grapes), and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a few plump and juicy berries to be ready for my welcoming gullet.

After much research and experimentation, I have hit on a life-extending solution (the berries’ life, not mine…that requires further scientific study).  I generously share my Save-the-Berry campaign strategy with you…

First, wash the strawberries and throw away or recycle the plastic carton AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME.  Don’t be tempted to wait until tomorrow, when the refrigerator gremlins will have already begun their insidious mold invasion.

Second, dry the berries on a paper towel.  Moisture is not your friend.

Third, tear or fold a small piece of paper towel into a 2 inch square and place in the bottom of a glass jar with screw-tight lid.  Place the berries into the jar, and top with another paper towel scrap.  Close the lid and refrigerate the jar.

Your strawberries will last for days – I’ve had some good for up to 2 weeks!  You’ll want to check the paper towel periodically, and switch it for a dry one as it absorbs the moisture from the berries.  Voila! Fresh strawberries on demand!

County Fairs and Canning

Summertime is still County Fair time for our neck of the woods, and we try to support the local events against the inexorable march of modernity.  I’ve been saddened to see the volume of exhibits dwindle in past years, as I’m sure it is an indicator that we are losing our rural life skills.  This year I decided to learn how to can, having grown up with my mother’s freezer jam – and reminded by my husband (who apparently loves to sleep on the couch and can’t figure out how he keeps winding up there) that his grandmother’s canned peaches were the best on the planet.

After much ado, buying jars and scavenging recipes, I came up with a nice selection of jam, spreads, and some fairly fantastic spaghetti sauce.  Now for some human testing… Oh yes, the Fair is coming up.  Nice, anonymous subjects to spring my creations on.  Practically untraceable if anything should go wrong.

Off to the Fair.  Everyone in the family entered this year, with some surprising results…

Drew was thrilled to receive a red ribbon for his wooden model of a catapult, while Kendra was pleased with her double placement in drawing and painting.  David’s Tri-Loom for weaving was on display with other wood-working exhibits.  I snagged some blue ribbons in spinning and dyeing wool, and placed in knitting, weaving, and yup…canning.

Most surprising of all was a grand champion ribbon awarded to my Plum Surprise Chutney.  What the judged didn’t know, is that I don’t even like chutney, never tasted my recipe, and still haven’t opened any other jars of it in the pantry!  (Although I was able to pawn some off on dear Uncle Fred – it’s vinegar bite nearly killed him, but he recovered enough to stir it up with something else and swallow it down.)

We also viewed the livestock and vendor exhibits, cooling off with sweet tea and lemonade, and having our favorite fried green tomatoes for a treat!  So, the fair was another grand success, and can be counted as a proving ground for mad kitchen scientists…  Check out their site below (they may be looking for new food judges next year).