Who cares about candy. I want pickles!
I am often guilty of foisting my tastes on other people. When it comes to gifts, I forget that I can only shop for my mom by picking out things that I like. With food, I rant and rave about ingredients I love before pausing to ask if my audience shares my enthusiasm for such things. What? You say you don’t like goat cheese? You can’t stand spicy food? You won’t touch oat bran with a ten-foot pole?
I’m afraid my food obsessions made their way into the birthday gift I gave my aunt this past weekend. I thought what what to get her all month, waffling between making something and buying something. Eventually I settled on homemade jams and jellies. I picked out a couple of jars that I already had but I wanted to make one more thing. A canning recipe had been high on my to-make list for weeks and this was the perfect time to try it. Who wouldn’t want pumpkin pickles for their birthday?
Ummm, probably a lot of people. I considered the possibility that my aunt might not share my love for unusual pickles and all things pumpkin. The recipe won, though. I had to make it and once I had, I had to share the delicious thing I’d discovered.
I don’t really know what my aunt thought of the squat pint jar of deep-orange pumpkin cubes when she pulled it out of the gift bag. I think she guessed that it was cheese. She thanked me for the homemade jams and pickles and I do think they were the right gift. I can’t help but wonder when she will open the jar of pickles and breathe that sweet, spicy hit of vinegar.
I know when I opened one of my remaining jars, that sweet scent brought the sights, smells, and sounds of fall to mind. Cinnamon, allspice, and cloves tickled memories of Halloweens past when everything was orange, black, and ghostly white. I tasted gingerbread, felt the custard of pumpkin pie on my tongue, and saw my mom stirring spiced cider on the stove. I heard candy wrappers and crunchy leaves rustle.
A few hunks of pickled pumpkin went into a green salad for my lunch today. Another went straight to my mouth or a taste test and I was blown away. The pickling process seemed too simple and quick to have produced something so delicious. If my first bite of pickle was an explosion of fall flavor, then every bite of salad was a complete fall extravaganza in my mouth. All I can say is make these pickles and then make some version of this salad – at least something including the pickles, pears, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds. I don’t want to be the only one out here enjoying sweet pumpkin pickles this fall!
Sweet Pumpkin Pickles
From Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes about 6 pint (500 ml) jars
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
4 cups (1 L) white vinegar
24 cups (6 L) seeded peeled pie pumpkin or butternut squash (3/4 in cubes)
- Prepare canner(large pot that will hold all your jars covered with water), jars, and lids. (heat the water and sanitize jars if you are reusing them. Then place jars in warm oven)
Place cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in a small cheesecloth sack or tea ball
Zest lemon into a large saucepan that you will use to cook the pickles. Remove lemon segments from the white pith and surrounding membrane, discarding the membrane and pith (like you would grapefruit). Coarsely chop the remaining pulp. Add this and any juice from the lemon to the saucepan as well.
Add sugar, vinegar, and the spice bag to the lemon rind, pulp, and juice in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Add pumpkin cubes, return to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes (till heated through). Discard spice bag.
Pack hot pumpkin into hot jars with a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of headspace.
Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover pumpkin, maintaining 1/2 and inch of headspace.
Remove air bubbles if necessary.
Wipe jar rim, center lid on jar, and screw band on until resistance is met, then tighten to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, making sure they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.
Leave jars out to cool before storing. The center of each lid should be suctioned down so they don’t “pop” when you press on the lid.
For more information on canning, see the USDA Complete Guide to Home Preserving. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is also a great instructional and recipe resource.