Monday, October 14, 2013

Perseverance & Pumpkins

Goodbye summer, goodbye Indian summer--- Hello beautiful, colorful Fall!  During the last few days, it's possible that my house smelled better than yours! As I sit here and blog, the enchanting smells of cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin are magically taking over all the rooms of my house.

This year, I am just as excited as little kids that it's Halloween season. This year, I have decided to dress up as a... Kidding. I'm putting on my chef's hat and cooking something that takes me straight to my childhood: Pumpkin Preserves.

I went to the farmer's market yesterday and picked up the biggest pumpkin I could find. As I wobbled towards my car hugging that heavy beast and wondering why I had decided to park so far away, I got more and more excited thinking that soon, I would be eating the Pumpkin Preserves I had so often as a child.


These delicious preserves only made an appearance once a year and now I understand why. The process is l.o.n.g. but worth it!

First of all, to make these preserves, I needed to find some lime powder (calcium hydroxide or "kles"). My perseverance and determination to find this lime powder really surprised me. As I dragged my sister from store to store, her patience surprised me even more! Because this pumpkin preserve is a middle eastern treat, I went to every single middle eastern store I could think of. When the clerk would tell me that they did not have what I was looking for, I was asking left and right where I might find this incredibly hard to get lime powder. I was stopping shoppers in the middle of the store to get their opinions. After several hours (yes, hours!) of hunting, mission accomplished! I finally found what I was looking for (and I think my sister was happier than I was).

So, I go home with my powder and giant pumpkin and started my adventures.To make a long story short and so that you can visualize the chaotic state my kitchen was in, I had to wash pots and pans in the bathtub. And because I could not dispose of the calcium hydroxide water by flushing it down the drain, I walked/wobbled with my extremely heavy, GIANT casserole to a nearby construction area at midnight. I quickly dumped the calcium-y water and ran back home flinging the empty casserole behind me. Hello to the neighbours who saw me and probably asked themselves where I was going with such a big casserole in the middle of the night (there were a few).

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

Pumpkin Preserves
              recipe by Hagop Andonian


- 2.5 kilo pumpkin
- 500 g calcium hydroxide, lime powder (kles)
- 2 kilo sugar
- 5 cups water
- 1 lemon's peel
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 8 cloves


1. Put the 500 g of Calcium hydroxide/lime powder in a large container and add 3.5 liters of water. The solution will start to bubble. Within 15 minutes, it will calm down. The lime powder will sink slowly. Let this solution rest for 6 hours.

2. In the meantime, slice and peel the pumpkin. Cut them into uniform pieces (I diced them up with about one inch per side). Store them in the fridge.
3. Back to the lime powder-water solution. By now, the lime powder will have sunk. Using a small bowl or ladle, transfer the water to a big container and discard the lime powder. It is best if you do not discard it down the drain and note that if you spill it, it will leave a white residue.

4. Add the pumpkin pieces to the big container with the water and let it stay for 12 hours.

5. 12 hours later, discard water (again, not in the sink as it can clog your drain), remove the pumpkin pieces and wash them thoroughly with cold water (recipe says to wash them 7 times).

6. In a big casserole, add sugar and water and heat on High heat. Once it starts to bubble, lower heat to Medium, add the peel of one lemon, the cinnamon sticks, cloves and pumpkin pieces.

7. Cook uncovered until the pumpkin pieces start to look a little bit like glass (about 1.5-2 hours).

8. Add the juice of half a  lemon. When the pumpkins have cooled, transfer to jars and add the syrup on top.

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