Heirloom Pumpkin Soup with Grapefruit Marmalade

This bowl of soup has a distinct sense of time and place for me, as is often the case with the thrown-together meals I make from the garden.  The pumpkin is an heirloom rouge vif d’etampes, from Baker Creek Seeds. I’ve been growing their seeds for around six years now, every since I first had a space to grow my own vegetables.

For many years now, I’ve read their catalogue during the dark winter months and put together wonderful assortments of flower and vegetable seeds for my spring order.  I’m sure I’ll continue the ritual again this year, curling up next to the wood stove after dinner, wrapped in my favorite blankets, pouring over the latest seed catalogue and dreaming about pumpkins and zinnias. After so many of these quiet moments shared with that catalogue, it was almost surreal to work at the National Heirloom Exposition this September, put on by Baker Creek Seeds.  I was amazed to see the transformation of this tiny seed company in Missouri into an earth-moving force, a movement that brought together ten thousand people to celebrate the joy in growing your own food.  At the same time, realizing I’ve also come such long way from my first 10×10 raised bed with a few tomato and cucumber plants.  It’s quite inspiring what you can achieve with some hard work.

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup with Grapefruit Marmalade

I’ve never been one for traditionally written out recipes. It’s so much easier to cook using a basic formula – you’ll basically want to start the soup with alliums (onions, leeks, shallots, etc.) and fresh herbs sauteed in whatever kind of fat you like.  Add in whatever roots or winter squash you have lying around in the pantry. I had turnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and some leftover mashed potatoes, but if you match the amounts listed below with whatever you have on hand (butternut squash, rutabagas, new potatoes, etc.) the soup should still work.

Then, the really charming part of this dish, the ingredient that makes it different from all of the other squash soups out there, is the addition of some orange zest and grapefruit marmalade. At the Heirloom Expo, Shae from Hitchking to Heaven gave me a beautiful jar of her award winning Meyer Lemon and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, and I’ve been putting it on everything since then.  So in case you need reminding, citrus season is just a few short months away, and if you have a jar that needs using, it’s time to get to it.  Marmalade is so delicious on buttered english muffins, but the brightness of the grapefruit also adds a vibrant burst of citrus to any kind of type of winter squash or root vegetable.

For this recipe, simmer your winter squash and a tablespoon of marmalade together in some stock for awhile, puree, and stir in a liberal amount of chevre or heavy cream.  We ate this soup for a basic week night dinner with BLTs, but a dish like this can be as fancy as you’d like and would make a wonderful first course for Thanksgiving Dinner.

a written out recipe…

 Serves: 6

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 1/2 c. assorted alliums (I used 4 cloves of garlic, 2 small onions, and 1 large shallot)
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 smallish pumpkin, roasted and seeded (see instructions below)*  I ended up with around 2 1/2 c. of prepared pumpkin
  • 1 sweet potato, diced (about 3 c.)
  • 3/4 c. roughly chopped turnips
  • 1/2 c. leftover mashed potatoes, or 1 medium potato
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs. grapefruit marmalade (any citrus is really fine…)
  • 1/2 c. grumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream (completely optional, I didn’t use it but I would have if I’d had it in the fridge)
  • 1 tbs. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • for serving: thinly sliced scallions, a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt or creme fraiche, and some crumbled bacon

In a large soup pot, saute the alliums, orange zest and sage leaves in the olive oil on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add in the sweet potato, turnips, mashed potatoes, and the prepared flesh from the roasted pumpkin. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Pour in stock and bring to a simmer. Add in salt, pepper and marmalade.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or so.

Puree the soup using whatever kitchen appliance you like (blender, immersion blender, food processor).  Return the soup to low heat and stir in the chevre. Whisk gently to melt the chevre into the soup.  Add a splash of heavy cream if you want to make it really rich. Check the seasonings.

Top with scallions, plain yogurt or creme fraiche, and some crumbled up bacon.

*NOTE: The easiest way to cook with pumpkin is to roast it first. Brush off any dirt and put the whole pumpkin on a cookie sheet. Cook at 350 degrees until a paring knife slides easily into the flesh, like checking a baked potato. The cooking times will greatly vary depending on the size of the pumpkin, but a small one will take about 45 minutes to cook all the way through.

Now, out to garden. I’m planting seeds for sweet peas and carrots today. I try to find time each day to grow something beautiful, cook something delicious from the garden, and put something into jars.

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Chocolate Plum Jam

It is 108 degrees outside right now.

You know that feeling when you get into a hot car that’s been sitting in the sun? I feel like that, except there is no engine to start, no windows to roll down, and no air conditioning to turn on. I am just finding my zen place instead.  Existing inside of the hot car.

My brain feels funny.

The upside of all of this is that instead of doing any kind of work at all, I’m going to sit here on the computer and write a blog post instead, with what is potentially the most important jam recipe in the history of food preservation and the written word: Dark Chocolate Plum Jam.

But first, The Disclaimer: Chocolate is tricky in jam. Putting in too much will make the resulting sweet confection completely delicious but also completely not safe for water bath canning. I don’t know what amount is officially “too much” I’m not a food scientist, or any kind of scientist for that matter.  (This recipe has had several variations…*)

When it’s 108 outside, if you happen to be in a commercial kitchen, I recommend the following gel test: When you think the jam is ready, remove the pot from the heat.  Put a teaspoon full of jam on a plate. Go to the walk-in freezer. Stand in there holding the plate for two full minutes. You will feel amazing, and if you run your finger across the jam it wrinkles, you will know that it’s set.

Santa Rosa Plum Jam with Dark Chocolate

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Makes: I can’t remember. About 4 1/2 pint jars I think. It’s hot out though, and I wasn’t really planning to post this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 c. santa rosa plums, diced (or any plums, really)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. organic cocoa powder, sifted (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice

Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Make sure jars and lids are cleaned and sterilized (I do this for everything, even if it’s a jam that has a long enough processing time that you don’t really have to sterilize your jars… it makes me feel safe, like a warm fuzzy blanket). 

In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder and 1/2 c. sugar. Set aside. In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the plums, the remaining sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in the cocoa powder/sugar mixture. Cook until jam reaches 220 or so on a candy thermometer, or whatever your preferred gel test is if you’re not using a thermometer. (Technically, my jam only hit around 216 and still was completely set once it cooled). 

Pour hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

I’ll have to add some pictures of the finished jam some other day as they seem to have escaped my camera.  Or you’ll have to just make it yourself and find out.

and just one more small thing . . .

While you’re at it, you can also slice plums and dip them in melted chocolate, set them on a cookie sheet on top of some wax paper, stick them in the fridge to harden, ending up with Chocolate-Covered Santa Rosa Plums, which are about a million times more delicious than chocolate covered strawberries. While they’re still warm you can also roll them in chopped hazelnuts if you like that kind of thing. Just so you know, while we’re on the subject of chocolatey plum ideas.

Oh, I just realized why plums are making me so happy today:

This is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in 

the icebox

and which 

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

– William Carlos Williams

(My brain has been associating plums with cold since I first read that poem in 11th grade).

* The first version of this recipe used low-sugar pectin and 100% cacao dark chocolate, but I’ve edited it to make a more consistent final product. Cocoa powder makes it easier not to burn the chocolate, and getting rid of the commercial pectin results in that lovely jammy texture that we all love.