Bring on the pumpkin butter
Fall — autumn, if we want to be more formal — is just around the corner.
It’s about time. As much as I love snow cream in the winter, fresh strawberries in the spring and tree-ripened peaches in the summer, I prefer fall. Why? Because fall means pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and fresh pumpkin bread, with the pumpkin coming from, well, a pumpkin and not a can.
And let’s not forget pumpkin butter, which is akin to apple butter. I became acquainted with pumpkin butter when my maternal grandmother presented me with a jar of pumpkin butter she purchased during a visit to the Jelly Jar in Gatlinburg, Tenn., about 33 years ago. As much as I liked it, my daughter, who was 3 years old at that time, really liked it. She couldn’t get enough of it. From time to time, she would ask me if she could have some “monkey butter” on a biscuit. For some reason, what was in that jar was “monkey butter” and not pumpkin butter to her. Needless to say, that jar of “monkey butter” did not last long.
Fall also means fall carnivals, which means bobbing for apples, caramel apples and apples being pressed to make apple cider. Hot apple cider or cold apple cider, I’ll drink either one — and both if they are available.
Fall signals the approach of the N.C. State Fair, and anyone who knows me knows that I love the food choices at the fair. In my younger days, I was attracted to cotton candy, foot-long hot dogs and candied apples. These days, I like to look at — and sample, if possible — jams, jellies, relishes, pickles, pies and cakes made by North Carolina residents. And a trip to the fair isn’t complete without two country-ham biscuits from the Cary United Methodist Church eatery.
A few years back when I was unable to attend the fair, Washington’s own Jane Alligood returned from her trip to the fair with a ham biscuit for me. As far as I’m concerned, that earns her a special place in Heaven.
Country-ham biscuits, apple cider and pumpkin soup aside, the best thing food-wise about fall is Thanksgiving. Turkey and dressing are a must. Mashed potatoes and giblet gravy have to be on the table. Green-bean casserole? You betcha! Cranberry sauce, jellied cranberry or cranberry salad? Why not all of them? Collards with bits of seasoning meat? Of course, with some pepper-vinegar sauce to pour on them. Cornbread (cracklin’ bread, if you are lucky), biscuits and dinner rolls are a must so one may sop gravy and the pot liquor that keeps the collards moist.
There’s going to be at least one pumpkin pie, one carrot cake, one buttermilk pie and one apple pie from which to select a slice or two. And if my baby sister has the time, there’s going to be a banana puddin’ on the table. And there’s a chance my other sister will make persimmon squares, which go quite well with turkey.
There’s no doubt about it. I can’t wait for fall to arrive. I just may be forced to celebrate its arrival by making a big pot of beef stew or enough chili to last me four days.
Listen up, turkey producers and pumpkin growers. Grow those turkeys and pumpkins big and round. I’ve got plans for them.
Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He became a fan of bobbing for apples when his first attempt at bobbing for crabs did not work out too well.