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Fall is Here

For me Fall is the colors of the changing leaves, it’s the crispness in the air, and flavors that seem to warm you from the inside.  When Sur La Table approached me about making a pumpkin butter, I was excited to be trying something new.  I had never made a pumpkin butter before, but I knew what I wanted the flavor to evoke; Fall.  Pumpkin is a Fall staple, from pies to bread to coffee, Pumpkin is everywhere.  With that in mind we decided to look for ways to use our Pumpkin Butter that may not seem so obvious. Since I started Just Jan’s I’ve always touted the uses of our spreads as going beyond the ordinary, my Pumpkin Butter is no different.

While a lot of the time pumpkin is used in sweet dishes, pumpkin can also be a savory element.  That is the path we decided to take with our Pumpkin Polenta.  Polenta is a really easy product to work with, and it’s a great vehicle for flavor.  On its own the pumpkin polenta would make a great side dish, but it’s also easy to turn into a main course.  To achieve this we made a mushroom and root vegetable ragout. This dish requires a little prep work, but it’s delicious and well worth it.

Mushroom and Root Vegetable Ragout

Start with the ragout first as it has the longest prep and cook time.


4 medium carrots, diced

1 lb Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half

1 half bulb of fennel, medium slice

1 half white onion, chopped

Half a bottle of a beer

¼ cup of Balsamic vinegar

½ Tbsp butter

¼ cup Olive oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp of mustard powder

Place the olive oil and butter in a shallow pot or deep pan on medium heat. Heat the oil and butter until butter begins to foam.

Add the onions, and some salt to the butter and olive oil mixture.  Cook the onions until they begin to lightly brown. About 5-7 minutes.  As the onions continue to brown add the sliced fennel.  Cook until the fennel is softened, approximately 3 minutes. Once the fennel has softened, add the carrots.  By now everything in the pot should be looking caramelized.

At this point add the mushrooms and a little more salt. If the pot is looking a little dry, add some more olive oil. Cook the mushrooms for about 2 minutes then add the Balsamic vinegar.

Make sure the heat is not too high, and let the vinegar reduce down, about 10 minutes.

Once the vinegar has reduced, pour about half of a beer into the pot. After the beer has been added add the garlic powder and mustard powder and stir. Taste the liquid and add salt to your taste.

Be sure to not completely cover the vegetables with liquid, they should be about half submerged. Allow the liquid to reduce by about half again, you should be left with a dark fortified liquid. The vegetables, should still have some firmness.

At this point the ragout is done, and can be set aside.

Pumpkin Polenta

1 cup of polenta

1 cup of water

1 cup of half and half

1 cup of chicken stock

½ cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese

½ jar of Sur La Table Pumpkin butter

7-8 fresh sage leaves

1 tsp of salt

Polenta is a fine ground cornmeal similar to grits. For this recipe we used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Cornmeal Grits.

Prepare the polenta according to the instructions on the package.  Our instructions called for 3 cups of water, however to give this as much flavor as possible we used the combination of 1 cup water, 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 cup half and half.

In a medium pot combine the water, chicken stock, half and half.  

Add sage leaves to combined liquid.

Bring the liquid up to boil slowly, over low heat. We want to infuse the liquid with the aroma and flavor of the sage but the half and half can sometimes boil over, so take it slowly.

As the liquid comes up to a boil, remove the sage leaves, and using a whisk, stir in the polenta. Continue cooking the polenta for about 5 minutes.  As it thickens and tightens, stir in the pumpkin butter and parmesan cheese.  It should be thick yet still have a creamy texture. When it’s finished turn off the heat and allow it rest.

With the polenta finished you are ready to serve. Place a few generous spoonfuls of polenta in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, get some of the mushroom ragout and place it on top of the polenta. Next using a regular spoon scoop out some of the liquid in the ragout pot and put along the sides of the polenta in the bowl.  Serve and Enjoy!


If you want to add some additional flavor you can add some goat cheese to the top of the polenta and mushroom ragout.

Also for a textural contrast you could add some crispy roasted corn, or some roasted pumpkin seeds.

Crispy Roasted Corn

1 ear of Corn

1 Tbsp olive oil


Red Chili flakes

Shuck and clean the ear of corn.

Cut off the kernels and discard the cob.

Toss the kernels in a bowl with olive oil and some salt.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place kernels on it, making sure the kernels are spread out.  Sprinkle corn with red chili flakes.

Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and cook corn until it is brown. The corn will get crispy as you let it cool .


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