For a truly exceptional pumpkin pie it’s well worth the trouble to make your own pumpkin puree, rather than using canned pie filling. For this you’ll need a real pie pumpkin, not a typical decorative Halloween pumpkin, which is grown for color, strength, and a sturdy stem. Decorative pumpkins tend be stringy, bland and watery. If you want the ideal pumpkin for pie baking, seek out cooking pumpkins instead. We have them at GoodSeed Nursery every fall.
The most available pie pumpkin is the Small Sugar pumpkin, also known as the New England Pie, Northern Pie, and Sugar Pie. There are many other varieties of culinary pumpkins, and heirloom varieties are highly prized for their taste and texture. Among the best are Winter Luxury, Cheese, Golden Cushaw, and Rouge Vif d’Etampe (also called Cinderella or Deep Red). Cheese and Golden Cushaw do not look like classical pumpkins, but are sweeter than the Small Sugar pumpkins.
For a real treat, try Marjorie’s pumpkin puree recipe and make a pie with it (you can start with your favorite pie crust recipe or use a pre-made crust).
RECIPE FOR FRESH PUMPKIN PUREE
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Halve the pumpkins crosswise and place them, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cover the entire sheet with foil, tenting it over the pumpkins and crimping the edges.
2. Bake until the flesh is very tender, usually about 1 ½ hours.
Remove the foil and let the pumpkin halves cool. Remove the seeds, scrape the flesh into a food processor and puree (or strain) until smooth. Pack the puree into 1-pint containers; label and date. Refrigerate or freeze until using. Frozen pumpkin puree keeps well for about 6 months.
MARJORIE’S PUMPKIN PIE
Makes one deep 9 ½” pie
Basic Pie Dough for a 1-crust pie
2 cups pumpkin puree, preferable homemade
2/3 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons bourbon or rum
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Whipping cream (for serving)
1. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a large circle about 1/8” thick. Fit, without stretching, into a buttered deep 9 ½-inch pie pan (very important to use a large pie pan. This recipe makes a generous amount of filling). Trim off the excess dough, leaving a ¾-inch overhang. Fold under the edge of the dough, pressing along the rim of pan and forming a fairly high fluted border. Chill the dough while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third.
2. Line the dough with a lightly buttered sheet of foil; buttered side down. Bake the pie shell for about 8 minutes. Very gently remove the foil; prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust until the surface of the dough is dry, but has not yet baked all the way through, about 5 minutes longer. Set the pie shell aside; leave the oven on.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown and white sugars, flour, salt, spices, pepper, cream, milk, eggs, spirits and vanilla in a large bowl. Pour into pie shell.
4. Bake until the filling is set but still slightly wobbly in the center, usually about 45 minutes.
5. Cool the pie on a wire rack. Top with whipped cream flavored with pure vanilla extract, or real vanilla bean ice cream.
Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Farm Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. E-mail your landscaping questions, read columns on other topics, check hours and directions at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.
Steve Boehme and his wife Marjorie own GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. More information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.