It’s the beginning of November and I have three Jack-O-Lanterns pumpkins that I need to do something with. Sometimes, they go into the compost. Other times, I process them into pumpkin puree for future pumpkin pies.
This year, I had time to process the pumpkins. Well, I didn’t really have time, but I squeezed it in. The pumpkins were in great shape and it’s hard for me to throw away good, usable food! My family goes nuts over pumpkin pie, as do I. However, I wanted to play further with the pumpkin flavor. What else could I do or make that is different?
As a Wildcrafter, I went to my pantry which contains local herbs, dried roots and dried berries. Scanning the contents of my pantry, there was one jar that contained the flavor that said “Pick me!” My dried Juniper berries called out to me.
Juniper berries and Pumpkin. Hmmm…
Sounds good to me. And why not? We add other strong spices to our pumpkin such as: nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, all-spice, etc. Here is another strong spice: Juniper. Specifically, Juniper berries. I find Juniper berries quite the underrated spice; practically no one uses this spice. Many people only know it for its use as a Gin flavoring. Juniper berries, paired with other flavor elements, lends itself into other culinary delights besides the delight of a Gin Martini. Juniper berries are being used more and more in my kitchen, from flavoring meat dishes to flavoring cookies, desserts and even café lattes!
Last year, you may recall I did a “Bog Cranberry Crème Brulee” dessert. This dessert follows along the lines of that Crème Brulee. I’m a big fan of Crème Brulee and this juniper and pumpkin puree goes ever-so-nicely with the custard and caramelized sugar of the Crème Brulee.
By itself, the juniper in the pumpkin puree can be a bit strong; even slightly bitter. But heed not…once it’s combined with the Crème Brulee, the flavors mellow out and everything is perfectly balanced on the palette. I found the flavor of the juniper to be very subtle at first, but near the end as you are scraping out the bottom of your ramekins, the juniper flavor develops onto your tongue where you are left appreciating this underreacted spice.
On a side note…I think that this juniper and pumpkin puree would make a lovely topping for a cheese cake as well.
Juniper and Pumpkin Crème Brulee
- 2 cups Pumpkin Puree
- 2 tbsp of Maple Syrup
- 1.5 tsp fine ground Juniper Berries
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
- 10 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
Sugar to sprinkle (2-3 tbsp)
- Preheat oven to 325°
- I made my own pumpkin puree using my kids Halloween Jack-O-Lantern’s, but you can used canned pumpkin puree if you wish.
- In a bowl, add the pumpkin puree, juniper, nutmeg, and salt together and stir well. Place on low heat, and warm for 30min. This allows for more of the juniper flavor to infuse into the pumpkin.
- For custard, take 1 cup of cream and in a small saucepan, heat it over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan; remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk in egg yolks and granulated sugar mixture until smooth. Slowly stir in the hot cream. Stir in remaining cream.
- Place ramekins (I used ten 125ml mason jars) in a shallow baking pan (I used a 9x13in glass dish) and spoon some prepared pumpkin puree into the bottom of each dish. Be sure to save some for the top of the custard.
- Pour the custard over the prepared pumpkin puree, leaving some room for more pumpkin puree. Place pan on oven rack; add 1 inch of very hot water to pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set (centers will still be soft). Remove from oven and immediately remove ramekins from water bath to a wire rack for 10 min.
- After 10min, transfer the ramekins to a refrigerator and wait until it is completely cool.
- Once cool, caramelize the top of the custard. Sprinkle sugar on the top of each custard dish. Use a small kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. Or to caramelize the sugar topping in a broiler, place ramekins on a baking sheet. Preheat broiler. Gently blot surface of custard with a paper towel to remove any moisture. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Broil 3-4 inches from heat 1-2 minutes or until sugar is caramelized. WATCH CAREFULLY! Every Broiler is different.
- Add the remaining pumpkin puree on top of the caramelized custard and enjoy!