Don’t Try This at Home

Once there was a lady who got up bright and chipper on a chilly fall morning. She didn’t have a particularly full schedule for the day, aside from keeping her children (and there were 5 of them) fed, busy, and reasonably happy. As she mulled over her plans, she developed a slight hankering for pumpkin whoopee pies, the which if you have never tasted, you will not understand at all how such a hankering can unleash such a series of events.

She decided to get her small sons started on their math lessons at the kitchen table while she mixed up the ingredients for the cakey-cookies that would then get fluffy mounds of icing sandwiched between them. The coffee brewed and her mouth watered. Occasionally she had to pull the baby off the table and distract her with measuring spoons or scrapers. The little Kindergarten girl kept needing help with her “Going On Eagerly” book, which she was going through a little too eagerly. The lady kept telling her to slow down and color the pictures, all the while trying to keep track… now had she put in 1 cup of sugar or 2? The last step was to add the pureed pumpkin alternately with the flour. It was then she discovered that the last jar of canned pumpkin was actually gone, and she was going to have to process those two gigantic ornamental pumpkins sitting on her front porch. She had been waiting for a day when there wasn’t much to do, but this day had somehow lost its uncomplicated status and she just wanted those whoopie pies done.

Through her subconscious, the sounds of happy splashing filtered ominously. After she extracted the baby from the bathroom, sanitized her, and dressed her in clean clothes, she gave a lecture to the older children about flushing every time, and shutting the bathroom door. The baby got dropped in bed for a nap and the little girl huffed and puffed as she rolled the smaller pumpkin into the kitchen. Oh well, the lady thought, Mom always said you just do what you have to do. No point in dithering.

By the time she tried out the butcher knife, the chef’s knife and the sharpest paring knife, she realized that this pumpkin was not going to go easy. Children drifted in and out of her peripheral vision, fascinated by the shining blade whacking down on the cutting board. After they sorted out the fat seeds from the stringy interiors, she told them to run along outside for a while. But the little girl stayed right at her elbow, helping her toss those seeds in butter and salt and popping them into the oven for a roasted treat. The day had become officially complicated, and she wasn’t sure how to turn off the crazy. School resumed, while a kettle full of golden pieces started to simmer on the stove. She renewed her efforts at chopping. There was a moment of vacillation, trying to decide whether to attack the second pumpkin, and why did she buy two anyway? Oh well, she thought, might as well be shot for a horse as for a mule.

The next few hours passed in a blur of cooking and blending batches of beautiful golden puree, fixing sandwiches for the children’s lunch, and finishing the cookie batter. The coffee was no longer fresh, the baby woke up, the husband returned from his classes, and the pumpkin was still not in jars, nor were the whoopie pies iced. She didn’t even want one anymore. But she doggedly finished up, wrapping each one lovingly in its own personal plastic wrap.

She ladled those two bowls full of puree into jars and set them to cold packing three hours. Well, she thought to herself, surveying the ruin that was her kitchen, I suppose that is how one gets something done. Then she ate a whoopie pie, just because.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home

  1. I’ve been wanting to tell you… This post made me remember that my mom used to can pumpkin, years ago, and inspired me to try it myself. I had so much fun I did it again yesterday. All the while, I kept thinking that although children are wonderful and beloved, canning pumpkin and making whoopee pies (yes, I did that too) is a lot faster and smoother without interruptions. Thanks to you and a hectic day we are now enjoying a variety of pumpkin products!

      1. No. Tell me how. Please?? Someone brought me one yesterday from Dunkin Donuts and it was yummy delicious. I have a bit of blended pumpkin in my fridge begging to be used.
        Also. I tried roasting the pumpkin seeds at several temperatures and in several ways, but I couldn’t get them just right. Any tips??

      2. For the toasted pumpkin seeds, we tossed them in a bit of melted butter and Worcestershire sauce, sprinkled with salt and roasted at 350. It doesn’t take long… 10 to 20 minutes.
        Pumpkin lattes are sort of open to interpretation. I usually make strong coffee. Then I heat milk and froth it in the blender… about 1 cup of hot milk with 1 T pumpkin and 1 T sugar. I pour 1/2 cup milk into a mug, slowly pour coffee in until the mug is full, then sprinkle cinnamon on top. These are kid friendly. You can tweak it to less milk, more pumpkin, whatever.

  2. I’m off to try the latte. It will crown my morning of cleaning the upstairs, preparing supper for company, and processing/freezing meat we bought in bulk last evening. I have more “pumpkin baking” coming up next week and will try again to roast the seeds. Like the Worcestershire idea. Thanks again!

  3. Okay… so after taking a break for one or two years, I canned pumpkin again on Saturday. I didn’t remember how long to coldpack it, so I went on your blog and searched and searched until I found this post. Sure enough, there it was… an unobtrusive comment about “set them to cold packing for three hours”… I had spent WAY too much time rereading old posts of yours in the meantime, so I was tickled that my time wasn’t entirely wasted. I found what I was looking for.

    I love all your writing, but one of your strengths is the cooking/canning/preserving tutorials. They are exactly what someone like me is looking for… I am familiar with the processes from many years ago but don’t remember details because that is what my mom always did. πŸ™‚ Thank-you so much for inspiring me all over again. This time I wrote down the notes on an index card for future reference in other years.

    PS. Once you publish your book, I promise to buy one. In fact, I would pay you to write it.

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