Sep 302012

Last weekend, Matt brewed his traditional fall batch of Black Pumpkin Ale.  Because I lovingly made the trek to the farmer’s market to find and retrieve the necessary pumpkins, my sweet husband was happy to pick all the chunks of pumpkin out of the spent grains in his mash tun when he arrived home and rinse and collect them for me.  Though the pumpkins get cooked before brewing and then steep in the grains to extract flavor, there is plenty of pumpkin-ey goodness left for use in the kitchen.  In past years I have put the pumpkin chunks into baggies and tossed them into the freezer for wintertime use, but this year, with fall in the air and a grocery budget to stretch, I felt like using it up right away and I thought I’d share how I went about using up 10 cups of previously-brewed pumpkin chunks in just 6 days.

I used the first portion of the pumpkin in a soup that I’ve made many times over the years: a Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup.  What I love about soups is that they are so un-fussy, so please overlook my complete lack of measured ingredients – it’s just not that important for this one!  Like most any soup, I started by sauteing a chopped onion in some olive oil, then added some homemade chicken stock, maybe 4 cups worth, and 5 or 6 chopped potatoes (these happened to be russets) and 4 or so cups of the pumpkin, then brought that all to a boil and cooked until the potatoes were good and tender, about 30 minutes.  At this point, I removed the soup from the heat and added a can of coconut milk and two tablespoons of curry, a few shakes of red pepper (crushed, not flakes), a bunch of minced garlic and some salt – spices are all to taste.  We like the spice in our house so you may like things more delicate than we do.  I stirred that up, then ran it through my blender to make it smooth and creamy.  I served it with some lovely biscuits and called it dinner.  While this soup has met with objectors in most of its previous incarnations, this time everyone was agreeable to it.  Miss A (the anti-vegetable) even had seconds and her big sister Miss C, who hates orange vegetables, found it to her liking as well, possibly because she called it “potato soup” and I did not correct her.

Later in the week I wanted to indulge the children for breakfast and tried this recipe for a Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl  .   I used two cups of pumpkin rather than 1 1/4 and because I had no applesauce in the house, though I’m sure that would have been wonderful, I used half a stick of butter in the recipe instead.   The cake was amazingly moist and so delicious.  I’ve filed this recipe away in my file for regular use!!

Finally, yesterday was “Pancake Saturday,” our family tradition, I woke up thinking about Pumpkin Pancakes!   I pureed up the rest of the pumpkin (about 4 cups) and the liquid in the bowl with enough maple syrup to allow it to get smooth in the blender.  I did spend some time waffling over whether to make the pumpkin puree into a hot “pumpkin butter” topping for regular pancakes or to just put the puree right into the batter and call it a day.   When I considered the logistics of having yet another pot on the stove while cooking up the pancakes on my two-frying-pan-system, simplicity won out and I added the pumpkin goo right into the batter and then added a good pile of cinnamon as well, plus some dry malt extract just for extra flavor dimension.  Matt took one look at my almost overflowing mixing bowl of batter and made some incredulous comments about my going overboard in making “all that” at once.  But the fact is that he has missed a good many pancake Saturdays and I have become a wicked pancake slinger this summer.  But I digress.  The pancakes were well-received.  They cooked up well and had a custard-like texture that was very smooth and satisfying.  The pumpkin flavor was rich and delicious.  There may have been 10 or so left, which the children happily ate for breakfast before church this morning.

I’ve heard rumors that there may be a second batch of Black Pumpkin Ale in the works yet this season and I’m hoping so, because I’d love to make use of another batch of previously-brewed pumpkin!  I wonder what else I can do with it??

Sep 292012

I was fascinated by the idea of making some kind of a pumpkin ale for a number of years.  Interestingly enough I don’t think I’ve ever had a commercial one that really embodied what I envisioned.  The result of my experimentation was my Black Pumpkin Ale.  This recipe continues to be a favorite among those who frequent my basement pub.  I try to make it at least once a year and I think it’s definitely worth focusing on in a future post.

I try to use fresh ingredients in my beer whenever possible.  I love the flavor from fresh whole leaf hops, fresh spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  When I started tailoring my pumpkin ale recipe years ago many of the examples I looked at used canned pumpkin.  I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted to add freshly harvested pumpkin to the mash.  So I went to the local farmer’s market, selected two bowling ball sized pie pumpkins and brought them home.  I’ve done this almost every year since.

To prepare the pumpkins I start out by halving them and cleaning out the seeds.  If you want to you can save the seeds and roast them later.  They make a tasty snack.

After cleaning the seeds out of the pumpkins the next step is to spice them.  In my recipe I heavily spice them with grated cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.  The fresher the spices are the better.  Then I pour some water into a cookie sheet or baking stone, place the pumpkin halves skin side up on the cookie sheets and put them in a 350 degree oven and wait.

Roasting the pumpkins takes about 90 to 120 minutes.  The goal is to cook them long enough so that they are cooked all the way through and the skins come off easily.  The skins will start to look deflated and turn dark in color.

Once they’re cooked take them out and let them cool until they can be handled.  At that point you start cutting.  You want to end up with skinless pumpkin cubes that you can throw in your mash tun with your grains.  I’ve also heard of extract brewers steeping their pumpkin like they would specialty grains and my friend Tom prefers to just throw his in the boil.  There’s plenty of room for experimentation.

Once my wort is in the fermentor and the yeast is pitched I’ll typically pick some of it out of the spent grains, rinse it off, and freeze it.  There is still plenty of goodness left for pies, coffee cake, soup, or whatever else you are interested in.


 Posted by at 11:01 pm
Sep 292012

I’ve been brewing beer at home for almost ten years.  During that time I’ve moved from making all extract brews from book recipes, to all grain, to tweaking existing recipes, to coming up with brand new recipes on the fly in the parking lot of the brewing supply store.  I’ve learned a thing or two from some great brewers (some of which may be contributing to this site in the future) and managed a few discoveries on my own.

Like many who brew I spend a fair amount of time sharing what I’ve learned with other new brewers and have had a blast doing it.  I thought it might be neat to take it to the next level and start publishing some thoughts, tips, mistakes, and random musings about beer and making beer.  That’s the purpose of this site.

In addition, I hope that others will share their opinions and experiences as well.

Maybe we can get together for a beer sometime.


 Posted by at 9:37 pm