Saturday, 5 November 2011
Equipment: Very big knife and thick cutting board; vegetable peeler or paring knife; glass or ceramic deep mixing bowl; colander; enamelled or steel saucepan, wooden spoons; 5 or more pint sized canning jars and lids; hot water bath canner; canning funnel is helpful.
Ingredients: One small to medium small cooking pumpkin (pie or sugar pumpkins are preferable, but if all you have is the smaller sized field pumpkin or a firm yellow-fleshed squash, well, go ahead. I used a field pumpkin the first time and it was very good.) At least one quart of tepid water, plus some for boiling the syrup; sea or kosher salt; 5 cups total white sugar; 4 cups vinegar, and I prefer cider vinegar. If all you have is white vinegar, no harm done, but use Heinz or a quality brand that is made from grain, as some cheap cleaning-type white vinegars are made from petroleum by-products. 2 tablespoons whole cloves, plus at least four sticks whole cinnamon bark sticks; I use more. (Scratch your whole spices with a paring knife and sniff to make sure they are not completely dessicated.)
Quarter the pumpkin, Scoop out the seeds - either save them for roasting or for next year's crop - and carefully and with some frustration peel the tough skin off the pumpkin. Unless you have a sharp paring knife or a good quality parer, you will find it slow, so make sure you have one or the other, as you should. Cut the pumpkin into even sized cubes of about one inch or so square. A little variety in shape is more appealing. Put the cubes in a bowl, and add salted water, adding 4 tablespoons of kosher salt to each quart of water. (Always use kosher or un-iodized sea salt for pickles, as the iodine will make the pickle soft. I use sea salt.)
Cover the bowl with a dish towel and leave overnight in a fairly cool spot in the kitchen or pantry.
In the morning, or sometime during the day, drain the water, rinse the pumpkin cubes in a colander and rinse the bowl to get rid of any lingering salt, put the pumpkin cubes back in it, and cover with this syrup:
Bring to a boil 1 quart of water, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of vinegar, the whole cloves and half the cinnamon sticks. Boil for about 5 minutes; be careful that it doesn't boil too hard or too long. Pour the syrup over the pumpkin in the bowl, cover - I use a pizza pan - and set back in a cool place overnight.
In the morning, prepare jars, lids and rims for canning, and get the canner water boiling.
Put the pumpkin pieces in clean, warm canning jars up to an inch of the brim. Put the remaining cinnamon bark sticks in the jars. Heat the syrup in a saucepan and add 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of vinegar, bringing to a boil.
Pour the syrup over the pumpkin in the jars, getting some of the clove pieces in each jar. (Hint: put a thin table knife or steel chopstick or skewer in jars as you fill them to dissipate the heat and prevent cracking.) Leave 1/2 inch of head space in each jar; cover with prepared lids and rims, and process in the hot water canner for ten minutes. Remove to racks or towels to cool.
Let it mellow for a week or so before opening.
This is such a pretty gift pickle that it is worth using decorative jars and lids. You can use gift-sized half pint jars if you prefer. I made this for a friend who admired the pumpkin pickle at a restaurant she liked, and after looking at a few recipes, decided this was close to what she described. It is a sweeter pickle than I usually make, but it suited her taste.