Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! My observation of this, my favorite holiday of the year, began yesterday afternoon, when I began preparing our pie pumpkins: 


Our squash harvest this year was kind of small: just these 3 pumpkins, and no butternut squash. I think we'll eventually feel that dearth over the winter as we run out vegetables to make it through our "no buying veggies” challenge: These guys store really well, without doing really anything to them at all. The processing only happens when you want to use it. Here's how:


Cut off the top with the stem, then put that newly flat end down (for stability) and the pumpkin in half. 


Use a spoon to scoop out the guts and seeds. Set those aside--we don't waste things around here! Scrape out any strings and admire the beautiful yellow flesh of the pumpkins.


Put the pumpkin halves face down in a baking pan or casserole dish. Or both. Just make sure it's a dish with sides, to hold in the juices. Having them face down helps them steam inside the skins, and that lets them cook faster. It's fine if they overlap, like these. Roast them in a 400 degree oven for an hour or so.


The timing isn't as important as what you see when you check on them. When the skins start to blister up and separate from the flesh, they are done.


Let them sit and cool (again, probably an hour) until you can start peeling off the skins without burning yourself. Start peeling at the bubbles where you can get a good grip, and just pull. This takes a little while, but it's a good job for a helpful child. The skins get composted; the pumpkin flesh goes into a big pot. 


We don't have a food processor (although if a benefactor is looking to step in, that would be awesome). I used our hand blender in a large pot to puree the pumpkin, and it worked great. The big pot is important for this, so you don't spray pumpkin everywhere. Also, we have a really good immersion blender. 

After the initial pureeing, Kirk pressed the pumpkin through a sieve to get out any last bits of skin or string. This should make it nice and smooth for a pie.

And the pie was the point, remember? Here's my recipe:

1 pie crust (1 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. salt. 1 stick of butter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then cut cold butter in – I like a pasty cutter for this job. Add about 1/2 cup icy cold water slowly, just a splash at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough just holds together. If it holds a ball before you use all the water, don't add more; if you need a little extra, that's fine too. Chill the dough a few hours before you plan to roll it out).

Filling: 2 large eggs, lightly beaten (or, 1 double-yolker from Dolley and the yolk of a little one from Abigail. We learned that a "large" egg means 3 1/4 tablespoons, so for baking it's a good idea for us to crack them into a liquid measuring cup to see how big they are. There are 4 tablespoons in a 1/4 cup, btw.)

Add 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, and a healthy dash or two of nutmeg. After a quick stir, stir in 2 cups of pumpkin puree and 3/4 cup half and half and 3/4 cup cream. 

Put the pie shell (in the pan already – do I have to explain everything?) on the rack in the oven, then pour the filling in and slide the rack slowly back into place. This will keep you from slopping the very liquidy filling all over the floor when you try to get the pie in the oven.


Notice that the filling is quite pale. This is because pumpkins while often orange on the outside, are actually yellow on the inside. If you want an orange pie, you should use butternut squash, which is tan on the outside and orange on the indie. Go figure. It still bakes up a golden brown:


This took longer to set up than a pie made with canned pumpkin. When you bake it, it starts out in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then you turn it down to 350 for the last 45 minutes. Mine took an extra 8 minutes on top of that, and then I turned off the heat and let it sit in the still-warm oven for another 10. I'm thinking this has to do with the extra moisture in the fresh pumpkin. Just keep checking and poking holes in the middle until it comes out clean. 

Now the thing is, I can't describe what it tastes like for you yet. It would be wrong for me to eat some for breakfast and try to hide the damage with a giant glob of whipped cream (because we will whip some up after dinner to put on top, obviously). I'll report back later. After a nap.

POST-THANKSGIVING UPDATE

This pie had a lighter taste than a canned pumpkin pie, though I'm not sure if that was due to the fresh pumpkin or to the cream/half and half combo instead of evaporated milk (which has a heavier, "cooked" flavor). It was really good – and even better with a little fresh whipped cream! 

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