‘Tis the season for pumpkin! In our area this is about the only time you can get fresh pumpkin (never mind that they store incredibly well). Pumpkin is in that “ideal vegetable” category. Even though they’re technically fruit! Pumpkin contains beta carotene, an antioxidant, great for vision and skin. ½ cup of pumpkin equals 1320 IU Vitamin A, 280.6 mg Potassium, also phosphorous, vitamin c, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Pumpkin pie is really a custard, with minimal sugar if you use the right recipe, making an ideal vehicle for sneaking nutrition into the kids’ tummies. So I thought I’d try an make a pumpkin pie from scratch.
Now, I tried this once when I was a kid and the pie came out bland and stringy, so I did some research to see what happened.
Here was my mistake: never use a carving pumpkin for pie. Carving pumpkins are grown for size and color, and usually will have poor texture and flavor. When choosing a pie pumpkin, you want something small, under five pounds. There are varieties of pumpkin considered “pie pumpkins”: locally I found “Sugar Pie” and “Oz” pumpkins. Color isn’t terribly important, as there are some very tasty pumpkin varieties that look like mutant gourds, green and white and bumpy all over like they have a rash. That’s fine, it’s what’s inside that counts! Choose a pumpkin with a stem (the stem keeps it from decaying quickly – that soft spot the stem leaves is the ideal entry point for bacteria) and one that you can’t dent with your fingernail. Go ahead and buy your pumpkins now, because they will keep well in a cool dry place for three to six months, depending on the variety.
That’s a standard size coffee mug for reference.
For instruction on cooking the pumpkin to get the pulp I grabbed my old reliable 2nd Edition Joy of Cooking. To cook any kind of winter squash (like pumpkin, which can substitute for any winter squash and vice versa), cut the squash in half the long way, through the stem. This is hard: I drafted hubby and he used my long serrated bread knife while I held the pumpkin steady. Clean out the seeds and stringy gunk, saving the seeds for roasting. Put the squash on a baking sheet cut side down and bake at 300 degrees for about an hour, or until it’s falling apart.
Let it cool a bit, then peel the pumpkin and discard the peels and stem. Run the pulp through a food processor, blender, or food mill (or if you’re really old fashioned you can strain it). There, it’s ready to cook.
For the seeds, clean off all the gunk and spread them to dry. There are many recipes for toasting seeds, but basically you’re going to toast them in a 250 degree oven for about an hour or until they’re light brown, tossing every 10 minutes or so. If you want to flavor them spray them lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt or other seasoning. They’ll keep in an airtight container for a while, but mine never last that long.
So for pumpkin pie, I went through all that trouble to get fresh pumpkin pulp and then I cheated and used a frozen pie crust. But here’s the recipe straight out of the ol’ Joy Of Cooking. Pumpkin pie is really custard in a pie shell, so if you’re allergic to wheat like my friend Niami, make this crustless.
Pumpkin or Squash Pie
Line a pie pan with a pie dough.
Preheat oven to 425
Mix until well blended:
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin or squash
1 1/2 c undiluted evaporated milk or rich cream
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg or allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
2 slightly beaten eggs
Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake 15 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 45 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted into the pie comes out clean.
If you don’t keep all those spices around, you may substitute 1 tbs pumpkin pie spice for the spices. Joy of Cooking also notes you may omit the milk and add 2 tbs molasses and 1 1/2 c sour cream.