Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Puree, Pumpkin Pie, and… Pumpkin Beer?

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve recently looked at the calendar, saw that Thanksgiving was this coming weekend, and thought: “How the heck did that happen?!?!”

Apparently, it’s a wee bit early this year.

So, with Thankgiving bearing down on us like Rob Ford on a Toronto Star reporter, I thought I’d dig up a pumpkin post from when I was writing local food columns for Peterborough This Week.  I know you’ll be needing pumpkin pie, and fresh pumpkin purée kicks the crap out of the canned variety.  My first column deals with making pumpkin purée, roasting pumpkin seeds, and includes a recipe for pumpkin cookies.

While we’re in the way-back machine, I’d like to take a second opportunity to, again, travel back in time. All the way to the year 2011. Because the Olde Stone Brewing Company currently has their seasonal Pumpkin Ale on tap, I thought it would be great to revisit an old newspaper column of mine on Brewmaster, Doug Warren, and his pumpkin suds. Click here for the column, or simply scroll down.

Pumpkins – Not Just for Jack o’ Lanterns

The joy of pumpkin is that it versatile.  Versatile and gooey.  Nothing says fun like scraping our stringy pumpkin guts and squishing them through your fingers.  If you have kids, be prepared for some screams of fun disgust.  Don’t forget to keep the pumpkin seeds.  Toasted, they make a great treat.  Simply rinse the seeds and spread them over a paper towel to dry overnight.  The next day, toss them in a bit of oil and salt and then bake.  I cook mine at 300 degrees for roughly a half-hour – tossing every 10 minutes or so – until they are nice and golden.

Most pumpkin recipes call for pumpkin puree.  Here’s a quick, no fail way to make your own:

In order to make the puree, you will need to scrape the inside of the pumpkin clean – have fun, kids!  You then cut the pumpkin in half, laying the halves in a large roasting pan, with a cup or so of water.  Bake the pumpkin at 350 for roughly 90 minutes, or until very tender.  Let cool and then scrape the flesh from the rind.  Use your food processor to puree until smooth.  Be sure that you are using a smaller pie pumpkin rather than a larger decorative one.  Jack o’ Lantern pumpkins are often too tough to eat — plus they lack the taste of most of the heritage varieties.

Want to make use of some of that pumpkin puree?  I’d offer you my pumpkin pie recipe, but I don’t make pumpkin pie.  I lack the pastry gene.  You may want to consult either a grandmother or the internet.

Instead, I’ll offer up some great cookies.  See below for an easy recipe to help you do so.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies
These are kind of “cakey” cookies that are popular with both kids and adults.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
1 ¾ cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons (or slightly more) milk
1 tablespoon butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together all dry ingredients (except white sugar).  In a separate bowl, cream together butter and white sugar.  Stir in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Measure tablespoon sized balls of dough, place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool and drizzle on glaze.

Glaze: Mix together ingredients.  If not thin enough to drizzle add slightly more milk.

 

beer

Downtown pub “Hops” into new local flavours

Being a food writer can be a lot of hard work.

Deadlines loom. There is constant pressure to publish in order to keep a roof over your head. And people feel compelled to have you try their latest culinary creations and handcrafted beverages.

Why only last week I had to spend an afternoon in the basement brewery of the Olde Stone Brewing Company, sipping microbrew beers in order to report on the latest small-batch options available to Peterborough diners.

After a very thorough sampling I’m happy to report that the current seasonal offerings of the Olde Stone will meet – and perhaps exceed – the expectations of local beer aficionados.

It’s a tough life, I tell you. But someone has to eat and drink for a living.

It should come as no surprise that the Olde Stone’s new seasonal beers are exceptional. Brewmaster Doug Warren has been creating fine brews at the pub for the past five years – he’s been designing craft beers for 25 years in total. Before setting up shop at the Olde Stone, he honed his skills making beer for such well-renowned microbreweries as the Kawartha Lakes Brewing Company, Mill Street Brewery, and the Churchkey Brewing Company.

Warren’s regular house line-up ranges from an India Pale Ale to a Bitter to a Stout. My personal favourite is his Red Fife Wheat beer. All of these brews are popular with the pub’s diverse clientele, with discriminating local beer appreciators making the Olde Stone a regular stop and tourists flocking to the establishment on the merit of its strong reputation.

While the roster of regular house beers remains the same year-round, Warren’s limited edition seasonal beverages tend to reflect the tastes of the season.

And this autumn he has tried to keep these tastes as local as possible.

He’s serving up an “Olde Stone Pumpkin Ale” – flavoured with several varieties of pumpkin from Martin’s Fruits and Vegetable Farm in Campbellford. He has also created a “Wet Hop Ale” made with hops grown at Slow Acres Organics – a farm just south of Peterborough.

“I try to use as many local ingredients as possible,” said Warren as I explored his brewery. “But this is not always possible when you have limited local options.”

The Wet Hop Ale is particularly notable in its use of local ingredients. Hops, you see, are not traditionally grown in Peterborough – at least they haven’t been in quite a while.

According to Jay Schiller of Slow Acres, the crop has only recently been re-introduced to the area.

“It’s been around 100 years since hops have been grown commercially in this part of Ontario,” he told me as I sipped the results of his agricultural experiments. “The climate here isn’t all that great for older varieties of the plant.”

Farmers, however, have been carefully breeding varieties that respond well to various climates.

“It takes quite a while to naturally produce new varieties,” he explained.

“It takes generations of plants to bring about the changes needed to adapt to growing conditions.”

“Naturally” is a word that carries great importance for Schiller. After all, being an organic grower means that he takes particular care in producing the most natural crops possible. He is careful to stress the difference between breeding new varieties through persistent selection and genetically modifying plants.

“Traditional breeding of crop plants has been standard practice for thousands of years – really, since people first started farming. And it is a technique that is a perfect fit for people who have concerns about the science of genetic modification.”

As a person who values naturally-produced, local, seasonal ingredients – and one who also values great beer – I’m excited that one of only a handful of Southern Ontario hops growers has set his sights on producing for local breweries.

It has made for a great beer drinking option.

The “Wet Hop” has a delicate hoppiness – much less so than you would normally get with traditional dried hops. Both the flavour and aroma have a floral quality. There is a notable malt taste. It is a dark amber beer that maintains its slight foamy head for the duration of the glass.

The “Pumpkin Ale” is a somewhat conventional ale that contains hints of both pumpkin and spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. But these flavours compliment rather than dominate the beer. It tastes like autumn in Ontario.

The Olde Stone Brewing Company has been serving up quality beer and pub food from their downtown location for the past 15 years. Their autumn seasonal beers should be available for most of October. You can find them on George Street in downtown Peterborough.

Slow Acres Organics is a 100-acre diversified organic farm just south of Peterborough. The farm is in the ‘transition’ phase from 30-plus years of conventional farming with an expectation of official organic certification coming in the next couple of years. Owners Jay and Heidi will be producing heirloom and other certified organic vegetables this coming season. They’ll also be selling organic eggs. Look for their products next year.

Because I am showcasing local beers this week, I don’t have a recipe for this column. But be sure to check out the Farm to Table blog at www.mykawartha.com<http://www.mykawartha.com>for many local, seasonal recipes and tips.

In the meantime, I plan on sampling these local brewing endeavors heartily – until the Olde Stone’s batches of “Wet Hop” and “Pumpkin Ale” run out later this month.

I’ll do so for journalistic purposes only, I can assure you.

I’ll take one – or several – for the team.

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