Liquor: Pumpkin Juice!

It's Halloween, so of course everything is pumpkin EVERYTHING right now! However, the inspiration for this particular recipe actually comes from my nearest and dearest favourite fantasy series...Harry Potter. These are the books that opened the world of fantasy, magic and make-believe to me, that provided me--as a geeky, gangly, unpopular and painfully awkward 11-year-old--another world to disappear into when mine was so unbearable.

I am only slightly less awkward and gangly as a 23-year-old and about eleventy-billion times more geeky (hello Hunger Games, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Batman...) and I still love Harry Potter as much as I did at the first turn of the first page. And since it's Halloween, the movies have been playing on ABC Family every weekend and I've been loving every minute. :)

Pumpkin juice is a beverage often enjoyed by Harry, Ron, and Hermione and in my current inundation with pumpkins, I decided to give it a whirl. I know it *sounds* weird, but I assure you it is delicious, refreshing, interesting, and definitely worth a shot! Now of course...the kiddos enjoy this straight up, but I discovered that it's even MORE delightful with a splash of Maker's Mark over ice. My girl friend Tiny Bird preferred it with some Gosling's dark spiced rum, and Lilypad liked it with brandy. (Drinking it in her Hermione Granger Halloween costume, natch.)

Pumpkin Juice
makes about 5 cups

What You Need
1 small pumpkin, known as a pie pumpkin in most stores OR 1 cup tinned pumpkin puree (100% pure puree, not pumpkin pie filling!)
2 cups apple juice (I used the freshly pressed Simply Apple brand, which is stored next to the refrigerated lemonades in your supermarket)
1 cup white grape juice
1 cup pineapple juice
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of cinnamon

Now, here's the thing. I'm currently on a kick about doing everything from scratch, so I made my own pumpkin puree. It was a fair amount of work, and it turned out smoother and a bit thinner in consistency and lighter in color than the kind you get from the tin. It takes time and a bit of patience, but no special skills. Feel free to make your life easier and just use one cup of the tinned stuff, skip to step 3, and we're good to go.

What You Do
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the pumpkin in half from pole to pole and scrape out the seeds and stringy bits. I found this to be easier after pricking it with a fork in several places and microwaving for 1 minute. Less likely have a knife slip and stab yourself this way. Unless there's something we need to talk about. Lay the halves facedown on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until very soft. (It made the whole house smell sweet and wonderful as the natural sugars in the flesh were rendered out!)

2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, slip the skins off (they turned very leathery in the oven, very interesting) and discard. Using a fine mesh sieve and a rubber spatula, working in batches, force the pumpkin flesh through the sieve into a bowl. This was the most time consuming part, for me, because you really have to mash it through thoroughly, scraping as you go. Toss the pulpy mess left in the sieve. Stir your beautiful puree together (it has a natural tendency to separate from its juices) and measure out 1 cup.

3. In a pitcher, stir together all of the juices and the pumpkin, along with the spices, until the pumpkin is completely dissolved. Chill until very cold, and serve over ice after stirring once again. Spike as needed. :)

Thanks for everything, JK.