Autumn has returned again. Okay, so Fall doesn’t officially start until September 21st, but out here in the boreal forest of rural Quebec, the weather doesn’t really pay attention to calendar dates. Leaves are changing color, the evening air is tinged with wood smoke from people’s hearths, and sweaters have been taken out of storage. It’s the time of year when hot soup becomes a staple, and we pay homage to the mighty pumpkin by using it in just about everything. People may make fun of how pumpkin spice lattes have become “the” basic flavor of Fall, but can you blame folks for loving it? With warming spices and rich, nutty notes, the humble “punkin” can take any coffee to glorious levels of deliciousness. Being terribly self-sufficient, homestead-y types, naturally we make our own syrup from scratch, and mix it with some of our favourite espresso to create lattes that bring all the woodland creatures to our yard.
…okay not really, but you get the idea.
One of the most important facets of homesteading is the cultivation and appreciation of the freshest, most wholesome food possible. We grow many of our own heirloom veggies and herbs, but the soil in our garden beds is still being amended, so we supplement our own efforts with a local CSA box program. Our friends at Ferme La Machine supply us with gorgeous organic vegetables from April to October, including the adorable sugar pie pumpkins that we use for our latte syrup (and countless other recipes).
If you can, try to make your own lattes with the best quality ingredients you can find, from fair-trade coffee to organic milks and sweeteners. Slow food is good food, and just as much pleasure can be taken in the culinary process as in the enjoyment of the end result itself.
How to Make Pumpkin Spice Syrup
2 tablespoons pureed pumpkin: you can use canned, organic pumpkin puree for this, but we like to use our own*.
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup organic sugar, or your choice of sweetener. If you’re using honey, maple, or agave syrup, remember that those are all sweeter than honey, and either use a bit less, or adjust accordingly.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
If desired, you can also add in a pinch of ginger to warm things up a bit more. I skip the ginger, but I like to add a tiny pinch each of allspice, cardamom, and black pepper.
*To make your own puree, cut a small sugar pumpkin into slices, remove the seeds, drizzle it with a bit of sunflower oil, and roast it at 400 degrees until it’s soft and browned. The flesh is then removed from the peel, put into a blender and pureed thoroughly.
1. Pour the water into a small saucepan, and add your sugar or sweetener, and the spices. Bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
2. Add in the pumpkin puree, and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until the mixture has reduced a fair bit.
3. Remove from heat, and adjust sweetness and spices as desired.
This syrup can be kept in the fridge, and should stay fresh for up to two weeks, if it lasts that long. Leftover puree can be used in pancakes, muffins, breads, or soups, and be sure to roast those seeds to snack on! At our house, the rind and miscellaneous scrapings are added to the compost heap: they’ll break down over the next few seasons and will eventually turn into rich soil for our gardens.
For the latte itself, just make your favourite type of coffee, pour that into a large mug, stir in as much or as little of the pumpkin spice syrup as you like, and then add the milk of your choice until you’re happy with its consistency and flavor. If you have an espresso machine that has a milk steamer, you can steam and froth up 2/3 cup of milk (I like to use a mixture of almond and coconut for this), and pour that over your espresso shot.
Note: we have an espresso machine, but we also use a stovetop percolator on our wood stove when we have a fire going, or use camping pots to brew a rustic coffee over an open fire. We might be a bit biased, but we find that everything seems to taste better when it’s prepared outside over a flame.
Similarly, if you prefer tea to coffee, you can brew a batch of your favourite black tea, and follow with the syrup and milk. Lightly steeped chai goes wonderfully with the pumpkin syrup and intensifies the spicy flavors, but you can also make this with standard orange pekoe or Earl Grey tea with great results. If you’re a fan of toppings, you can add some whipped cream (or similar vegan fluff), top it with some cinnamon sugar or dark chocolate curls, and then sip to your heart’s content.
This is the perfect beverage to drink outside on a crisp fall day, but it’s just as enjoyable if you’re sitting by the fireside with friends on a cool, rainy evening.