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We liked this Victorian summation of Christmas shopping, above, from an 1876 etching reflecting the fact that nothing much about the urge for bouts of seasonal spending has changed in 137 years. The poem that originally accompanied it, spoke of "shopping, shop, shop, shopping," until everyone was "dropping, drop, drop, dropping." And that was even before "shop, shop, shopping" already commenced as soon as the pumpkin pie had been served up on Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday became a synonym for a make-or-break Holiday business season.
Photographs by Elspeth Young
But now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are the stuff of memories, and peace has been restored to the planet--even Wal-Mart--and pie pumpkins are languishing in the produce aisle or canned pumpkin has been marked down into the reasonable range, a great use for pureed pumpkin--in addition to our Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Pie--is pumpkin butter. It's one of those makes-you-feel-virtuous-while-you-indulge-yourself treats--and this one is particularly indulgent, because we spike it with dark chocolate. (Though if your predilections run to milk chocolate, substitute away.) Homemade pumpkin puree, as well as the canned versions can vary quite a bit in thickness, but it doesn't matter too much in this easy oven version--simply let a puree of a thinner consistency bake a bit longer.
You can serve this up mixed into yogurt, or as a topping on crackers, bread, or toast (with or without a touch of cream cheese or butter beneath.)
Meanwhile, you'll find us visiting with Saint Nicholas for our soon-to-be-shipped Christmas issue (enjoy the sneak peek, right!).
Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Butter by Nancy Young
One 29-ounce can of pumpkin puree or 3&1/2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
1&1/2 cups sugar (we like unrefined cane, but white or brown works as well)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1&1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 to 3/4 cups dark chocolate pieces (depending on preferences)
Heat an oven to 350 degrees, pan-spray a 2-quart or larger, ovenproof casserole and stir together all the ingredients, except the chocolate, directly in the casserole dish. Place into the oven and let the mixture cook gently down--removing it from the oven and stirring the mixture about every 20 minutes or so-- until it's reduced down to a thick, spreadable consistency. This takes anywhere from about 75 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the chocolate pieces, just barely stirring them in. Let the butter cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use. The flavor of the butter improves after 24 or more hours, but the taste is great to begin with so no worries if it's gone before bedtime. It makes a nice hostess gift or a sweet neighbor gift all through the Holidays.