November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part I)

Heather's Pumpkin Bread

Heather's Pumpkin Bread

          A note to readers: This blog has moved! Please visit the new IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS for new posts as well as copies of older ones (yes, even this post!).  See you around the stove……..

          Tinky

         The blaze is gone.

          The burst of color in our hills has muted. The sun is making itself scarce. The grays of November have arrived.

          I’m not sure why November always takes me by surprise. It comes along every year. Nevertheless, during the glory of early autumn optimism fills my heart just as leaves fill the streams, and I nurture a tiny hope that the color and warmth will decide, just this once, not to retreat.

          When instead of an eternal October we get a very real November, my dog, my cat, and I grow a little grumpy. Truffle and Lorelei Lee gather by the woodstove earlier and earlier each day, training their glare on me until I relent and light a fire.

          I appreciate their viewpoint and enjoy the fire myself. Nevertheless, I find that the best cure for the November blahs is to leave my hearth and seek out people who look forward to this time of year—who instead of huddling inside embrace the darkness out of doors.

          One such person is my neighbor in Hawley, Massachusetts, Cyndie Stetson. Cyndie is famous (one might almost say notorious) locally for the lavish Halloween display outside her home. The high point of her year comes in late October and November. An avid watercolorist, Cyndie uses her artist’s eyes to perceive much more variety in our hills than I.

          “I love the colors in November—the browns, the purples, the grays,” she told me recently. “I love seeing and hearing the geese going overhead. I love growing pumpkins and gourds. When I was a kid, we grew gourds and sold them at my grandmother’s on a stone wall. So I grow gourds every year.”

          The darkness and the cold give Cyndie permission to act creatively, unleashing her imagination in a way that the light of summer and early autumn cannot. “I feel more energetic at this time of year,” she said with a smile.

Here’s a terrific pumpkin bread recipe to help you celebrate gourd season along with Cyndie. Thanks to Heather Welch of M&M Green Valley Produce in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, for sharing it. The boozy raisins are my own addition, and they’re terrific. This makes 2 big loaves so you may want to make 3 smaller loaves and reduce your cooking time. On the other hand, the big loaves have a lovely contrasting texture—crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

 

Part of Cyndie's Display (Courtesy of Lark Thwing)

Part of Cyndie's Display (Courtesy of Lark Thwing)

Heather’s Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

1-3/4 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)

2/3 cup water

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

3-1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

Instructions:

If you want to use the raisins, put them in a bowl about half an hour before you start cooking, and pour the liqueur over them to let them plump.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

          In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, oil, water, and sugar. Beat in the eggs.

          In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir them into the pumpkin mixture JUST until blended.  Stir in the raisins with their juice. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

        Bake the bread until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check the bread at the hour mark. If it is brown on the outside but still very soggy on the inside, reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and continue to check every 5 minutes until the toothpick test works. Remove the bread from the pans, and turn it onto racks to cool. Makes 2 loaves.

Truffle was allowed a SMALL piece of pumpkin bread.

Truffle was allowed a SMALL piece of pumpkin bread.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “November in the Hills: Embracing the Darkness (Part I)”

  1. Steph @ Cookin' Cowgril Says:

    This looks amazing! I love pumpkin!
    I’m having my first linky party on my blog and the theme is pumpkin. I’d like to invite you to come link up your favorite pumpkin recipe. The link is open until Wednesday at midnight, so please stop by and say hi.

    http://cookincowgirl.blogspot.com/2011/07/pumpkin-blog-hop.html

    ~Cookin’ Cowgirl

    • LaTinque Says:

      Steph–I’m so sorry; I have moved thie blog and didn’t see your request until too late!

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