Pumpkin Pie, Of Course!
Pumpkin pie. It’s on every Thanksgiving menu whether you like it or not. It screams, “The holidays have arrived!” and personally moves me into a whole other dimension when I eat it because it’s just that good to me.
But, pumpkin pie is a rather new invention. Crazy right? We all have these visions from childhood history of a woman holding a perfect pumpkin pie near a table with the plumpest, fattest turkey known to humans, while standing next to what looks like the Land O’Lakes lady, but the truth is, it didn’t become a pie until the late 1700’s. The earliest documentation of a pumpkin cooked to that similar of custard was at the 2nd Thanksgiving feast in 1623, where the “pompion” (pumpkin) top was cut off, the seeds were removed and the cavity of the pumpkin was filled with honey, cream and eggs. The “pompion” was then placed directly into the coals of a fire and cooked until it curdled. The mixture was scooped out with the cooked squash and served. Sounds truly delightful if you ask me!
The first documented recipe to put pumpkin custard into a pastry shell, or actually a dough base, came about in the first published cookbook in America in 1796 by Amelia Simmons called American Cookery by an American Orphan. In her book, Amelia has a recipe for “Pompkin Pudding No.1” where she suggest mixing 1 quart of pumpkin stewed and mixed with 3 pints of cream, 9 eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger and to bake it in dough for “three quarters of an hour.” Holy Crap! That’s a freakin’ custard no doubt.
I have spent a few years trying to perfect pumpkin custard from the squash we have been growing in our garden. I’ve learned to strain the water so one wouldn’t need 9 eggs to firm it while cooking, and I have learned that giving it the proper time it needs to make the best textured and flavored custard for a pie, or on it’s own, is the #1 ingredient.
Real Pumpkin Puree
(makes two pies’ worth)
1 7lb Cheese Pumpkin (my dirty little secret is I use Cheese Pumpkins or Blue Hubbard Squash as the flavor is far superior than that of a pumpkin. If these aren’t available to you, a pie pumpkin will suffice)
Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 3/4 C Pumpkin Puree
3/4 C Dark Brown Sugar
2/3 C Heavy Cream
1/2 C Coconut Milk (100% real coconut milk, not the sweet stuff like CoCo Lopez)
1/2 C Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 egg yolks
Add ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon & salt to your liking
For the Pumpkin Puree:
(This recipe requires two days)
Cut the pumpkin open and into even pieces. I find using a cleaver best for this action. Remove the seeds and pulp surrounding the seeds. You will not need the seeds for the recipe, so do as you wish with them. I soak mine in salt water for 24 hours, then dry out on towels and roast in the oven for a snack, but that’s a whole other recipe. If you don’t have a use for them, toss them into your compost pile or discard them.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lay the pieces of pumpkin, skin side up, on the tray and put into the oven to steam out. The skin will roast a bit, but not to worry as long as the flesh stays soft and colorless. The squash takes about 40 minutes to steam out and become soft. When this has been achieved, remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle it with your hands. Remove the skin from the flesh, really scraping as much of the flesh from the skin as possible. Discard or compost the skins.
Add the squash pieces to a food processor and process until a smooth puree forms. It will be quite watery at this stage.
Line a large bowl with cheesecloth or a jelly bag and pour the puree into it. Tie it up to close it completely so no puree oozes out the sides. Tie the bag to a secured spot that can hold the weight of the puree bag up off of your counter or table. Allow the bag to hang overnight at room temperature over a deep, wide, non-plastic bowl. This allows the water to drain from the puree so your pies will not be watery (or require 9 eggs as mentioned above, jeesh). I save the squash liquid that has drained out as a base for my Turkey brine, but if you don’t have a use for the squash water, discard.
This puree can be frozen for up to 6 months, stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks or used immediately for the following pie filling.
For the Pie Filling:
Stir all ingredients together with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated and the sugar has dissolved. Don’t use an electric mixture as it will incorporate too much air. Pour into a par cooked and prepared pie shell and bake at 325 degrees until it has set.
Do you make your pumpkin puree from scratch, or do you use canned?
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