In our family, holiday feasts always end with pumpkin pie. I don’t know when or how it became a tradition, but I can tell you in my family pumpkin pies are taken very seriously. Perhaps it was because my mother made pies that won purple ribbons at the County Fair.
Anyway, I remember one Thanksgiving when we had dealt with most of the bird, lots of dressing (and actual stuffing in those days), and the many side dishes that make a holiday feast wonderful. It was time for what everyone had really been waiting for all day–the pumpkin pies. There was a sense of anticipation amidst all the noisy hubbub of relatives who hadn’t seen each other for months.
My mother and grandmother brought sliced pies to each end of the long line of tables for people to serve and pass around, with the bowl of fresh whipped cream in hot pursuit. My grandfather was at the end of the table nearest to me. He had an old injury which left him with shaky hands, so the pie was given to my brother instead. Bro had just put a slice on my grandfather’s plate when suddenly the rest of the pie flipped out of sight and landed top down on the floor with a sickening thud. Everything in the room instantly came to a standstill, silence reigned, and the mood turned somber. The unthinkable had just happened.
My grandfather and brother sat looking at each other for what seemed an eternity as everyone else watched to see what would happen. Finally my grandfather said, “Well, I got my piece!” Laughter ensued, of course, and others generously began slicing their pieces in half to share with those of us who had been deprived.
Yes, indeed, pumpkin pie was taken very seriously by our family then. It still is today. In fact, I almost didn’t publish this recipe. In converting the family recipe to locavore ingredients, I used some apple cider syrup to replace part of the sugar. The result was a pumpkin pie with a strong apple flavor as well. To my daughter, the difference between the tradition pumpkin flavor she expected and the actual pumpkin/apple flavor made the pie nearly inedible. I, however, really enjoyed it, and since it was my grandson’s first pumpkin pie, he loved it and will probably expect the pumpkin/apple flavor from now on. (Note: If you don’t want the apple flavor, use more honey instead of the syrup.)
Let your tastebuds know that something different but wonderful is coming when you try this pie. For the crust, I used my mother’s recipe but substituted very cold butter for shortening. Keeping the dough cold and not overworking it is crucial for a successful butter-based crust. You want tiny, thin ribbons of butter throughout the dough for it to come out flaky.
Finally, it should be noted that I used “Marco Polo rules” for this recipe. Some locavores (people who eat only locally grown food) opt to keep using herbs and spices from out of their area. Since many of the spices come from the Far East, and were among trade items carried to Europe by Marco Polo, this practice is called using “Marco Polo rules.” It’s the holidays, after all. A cinnamon splurge seemed appropriate. Even the Pilgrims brought spices with them to the New World. Who knew?
- Prep Time:
45 min to 1 hr
- Cook Time:
- Ready In:
- 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked (I used flour ground by Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill, and Breckinridge Farm’s creamery butter)
- 1 whole “pie” pumpkin, about 6-8 inches across (these are smaller, sweeter varieties, and have a less stringy texture than decorative pumpkin varieties) (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
- 1/2 cup honey (Guilmette’s Busy Bees, Bellingham)
- 1/4 cup apple cider syrup(Bellewood Acres, Lynden)
- 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (Marco Polo rules*)
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger(Marco Polo rules*)
- 1 tsp ground cloves (Marco Polo rules*)
- 1 tsp ground allspice (Marco Polo rules*)
- 4 eggs(neighbor’s roadside stand, Lummi Island)
- 1 cup milk (Twin Brook Creamery, Lynden)
- 1 cup heavy cream (Twin Brook Creamery, Lynden)
* Locavores (people who eat only locally grown food) who use “Marco Polo rules” make an exception and eat imported spices when local versions are not available. I’ve used Marco Polo rules only for this holiday recipe.
Wash the pumpkin and break off the stem (use a meat tenderizer mallet or hammer, if necessary). Cut the pumpkin in half vertically with: 1) a meat cleaver and mallet, or 2) a serrated knife, or 3) a small saw. (I used a serrated knife.) Be careful!
Use a sturdy ice cream scoop to completely remove the seeds and stringy interior of the pumpkin. You could also use a metal spoon, if that’s easier for you. Save the seeds to roast later, if you like.
To cook the pumpkin: 1) put it in a microwave-safe bowl with about an inch of water, and microwave on high for about 15-20 minutes; or 2) put it into a saucepan or steamer with about an inch of water and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes; or 3) put it into an oven-proof dish, insides down, with a half inch or so of water and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes to an hour. The pumpkin meat should be very soft. Allow the pumpkin to cool enough to handle. Pull or peel off the outer skin (should come off easily).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Mash the pumpkin pulp in a bowl or saucepan using a potato masher. You can puree it in a food processor if you like, or use a “hand” or “stick” blender, but I like a little bit of texture so prefer to mash. Also, if there is water separating from the pumpkin pulp, let it sit for about half an hour and pour off excess liquid.
In a large mixing bowl, pour 3 cups of the pumpkin pulp, and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Pour into the prepared pie crust until close to the top. Don’t worry if the mixture seems too runny. It will gel during baking. (Note: you will likely have some pumpkin mix left over. You can use it for other recipes, such as pumpkin bread, muffins, or pudding. One online source I found suggested simply dipping bread slices in the pumpkin mix, and cooking them as French toast.)
Put pie plate on a cookie sheet (in case some filling spills or cooks over). Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for about 40-50 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out moist but clean. The center should be set, and won’t jiggle if the pie plate is shaken a little.
Remove from the oven and stand guard until it cools. You get the first piece!
Apple-Pumpkin Pie is good anytime, in my opinion.
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Terra Organica, Flora and Cornwall, Bellingham