And I mean really from scratch, starting with a pumpkin.
I grew three Amish pie pumpkins this year. They are supposed to get up to 90 lbs each, but mine were small, like New England pie pumpkins. One of them rotted before I could process it, leaving me with two small pumpkins. I’ll get four pies out of them.
If you didn’t grow your own, buy a sugar pumpkin. They are smaller and rounder than the Connecticut Field or Howden pumpkins that are grown for jack-o’lanterns. Or use a butternut squash. All make very good pumpkin pies. You can try making a pie with a field pumpkin, but the flesh of some of them can be fibrous and flavorless, not ideal for cooking.
Some people like to eat pumpkin seeds, but I’m not among them. That is, unless someone else has taken off the hulls. I don’t like chewing all of that fibrous seed husk. But if you want to make your own pumpkin seeds, toss them with oil, salt them and bake. Not sure how long or at what temperature, but probably 300 degrees F for 15 minutes.
The pumpkins are done when a fork slips through the skin and flesh easily. Note that two of the halves above have fork piercings in them. Let the pumpkins cool enough to be able to handle them comfortably.
The rinds go into the compost bin. The scooped out flesh goes into a colander.
Rotate the pestle, pushing the flesh through the small openings. The long fibers will stay behind in the colander. You can also use a potato ricer for this job. You could use a food processor instead of the colander, but I don’t like the texture of the resulting product as much. It comes out with a texture more like baby food, and yet can still have long strings in it if you use a food processor.
Scrape the outside of the colander to get all of the pumpkin pulp, and measure it in a cup. You will need 1 3/4 to 2 cups of pumpkin for most recipes. If I’m working with large pumpkins, I measure out 2 cup quantities of pulp puree and freeze it in baggies. I flatten out each baggie before freezing so the pumpkin pulp will store flat in the freezer. Since each package is thin, it also thaws quickly when you want to use the pumpkin in a recipe.
There is absolutely nothing else like the taste and texture of a pie that you made yourself from a real pumpkin. Now here are the recipes.
PIE CRUST for two 8″ pies
2 C unbleached flour, preferably organic
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T sugar
2/3 C plus 2 T shortening
4-5 T cold water
For shortening, I use half Crisco and half butter. Mix dry ingredients. Using a pastry wire/blender, cut in the shortening until the mix is like cornmeal. Stir in the water bit by bit using a fork until the dough balls up around the fork. Roll half of the dough out on a floured pastry board. Use the upside down pie pan to measure the crust. You want a circle that is 1 inch larger all around than the pie pan. Fold the crust into half, then half again to transfer it to the pie pan. Unfold. Settle the crust into the pan and crimp the edges. Repeat for the second crust.
PUMPKIN PIE FILLING
2 C pumpkin puree (or one can)
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 C sugar (I use organic sugar, which is a bit brown and has a great flavor)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice and/or cloves
1/4 tsp mace
Mix salt and spices with sugar. Beat the eggs and add other ingredients in order given, adding the sugar-spice mixture last. Pour into two 8″ pie shells and bake at 375 degrees F for an hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
(If you don’t have organic sugar, substitute 1/3 c brown sugar for 1/3 C of the white sugar. The amounts of spices can be varied to give different flavors to your pies. Mace isn’t used much in cooking any more, but it is a fabulous spice and needs to be back on America’s spice shelf.)