While Pumpkin Ice Cream Freezes…

So at the moment, I have a batch of pumpkin ice cream freezing/churning in our ice cream maker. My brilliant husband came up with the idea after I inadvertently made “pumpkin pudding” – in other words, I made a pumpkin pie and there was way too much filling, so I stuck the rest in the fridge and called it pudding. He took a spoon full and said “hey, this tastes like that ice cream from Trader Joe’s.” And then the light bulb went off in our heads and we threw the ice cream maker in the freezer last night. After it’s specified 12 hours of freezing, I pulled it out and poured the “pumpkin pudding” into the bowl and pressed “start” – let’s hope it turns out well! The recipe for the pie was from Smitten Kitchen, and was absolutely delicious. I adjusted it by omitting the canned yams, and used fresh pumpkin puree. It was a hit at our 2nd Thanksgiving last night. Possibly by the end of this post, the pumpkin ice cream will have frozen and I can let you know how that went.

But for those food projects I’ve been working on. The first was a pomegranate jelly. The recipe came from AllRecipes.com. I was surprised that my various canning sites didn’t have a recipe for this, but it turned out mighty tasty. The recipe calls for “pomegranate juice” which I’m sure would have been much easier to get from the store, but I had stumbled across a whole bag full of pomegranates from one of the moms at school. She is amazing (in more ways than as a pomegranate giver), and offered me the fruits of a friend/family member’s tree. I obliged and traded her some previously made jelly from some other pomegranates that were given to me (these things are expensive in the stores!!! no way am I buying them).
The jelly turned out amazing – it was the first jelly I ever made!

First I seeded the pomegranates by cutting them open and emptying them into a bowl of water. This makes so that all the seeds sink to the bottom, the pithy stuff floats to the top, and pomegranate juice isn’t staining everything in sight. Then I took the seeds, put them in a blender and then strained it through a fine mesh sieve. It resulted in the prettiest juice. I skipped the whole straining it through a cheese cloth to make it extra pure, because I don’t care that much.

Afterward, it’s pretty much jam from there, just way quicker. Boil juice, add sugar and pectin, boil again and then put them in jars. Beautiful little holiday gifts.

The next thing I/we did was make some beer. We made the Scotch Ale with Rye with a slightly tweaked recipe (will post that later in the “homebrew recipes” section). From that resulted several pounds of spent beer grains, which I have historically put into muffins, bread, etc. I wanted to make some rolls for Thanksgiving dinner #2 and wanted to use the spent grain a little differently. I had spent the last few days drying out the grains on baking sheets, and when they were completely dry, I put them through a food processor and then sifted them through a sieve to make sure the big chunks stayed out. The result was a fluffy and dark flour that I used in a recipe just like whole wheat flour.

The rolls turned out okay – not worth sharing the recipe. I’m not so good at bread these days, I can’t seem to figure out how to make the yeast work the way I want it to, and things never rise nicely.

During Thanksgiving #1 in Napa, Lisa and I fell victim to one of the appetizers which consisted of a brick of cream cheese topped with Trader Joe’s pepper jelly, scooped onto crackers. We made the mistake of putting this out about 3 hours before people showed up. I pretty much tried not to walk through the living room where this plate was resting, but no luck. It was tasty and about half gone before guests started coming. When I got home I realized that I had purchased the last big of peppers from the farmer’s market ($4 per pound! oy) in hopes of making one last hot sauce batch, but I was inspired by pepper jelly cream cheese goodness. AllRecipes.com did it again for the jelly recipe, though they called for about 4 cups of a mix of green and red bell peppers and some jalapenos. I just had a random mix of hot peppers, and only about half that, so I ended up using tiny 4 ounce jars, which is good because this stuff turned out spicy! The process is pretty much the same as the pomegranate jelly: cut up seeded peppers (I used a food processor), put it in a pot with some apple cider vinegar and sugar, add pectin and boil. Put in jars and give to heat-loving friends.

So guess what everyone’s getting for Christmas this year? It’s actually pretty amazing, I have been able to spread out the gift expenses throughout the last 6 months or so and the recipients of these gifts are going to get some tasty treats. It’s great to have a pantry full of presents for those random occasions where something small is in order. It’s been a tight year financially for us, so this has been a blessing. In more ways than one. I have found this process of canning/cooking/preserving to be extraordinarily therapeutic and it’s saved me from many stressful situations and has given me another outlet for my creativity. This has replaced painting in my life (for now), and it works.

And on the note of that pumpkin ice cream… There was just too much to put in the container to keep in the freezer, so we had to eat a bowl of ice cream for lunch. The sacrifices one makes…

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