Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving pie, but there’s no reason you can’t have it all year round. During the fall, I usually get tasty pumpkins and squashes on sale, and then I bake and puree the flesh so that I can freeze it and use it all year long. Canned pumpkin is also generally available all year round, and I think it’s a convenient way to have pumpkin, though I prefer to make my own puree when possible. Incidentally, you may have heard that canned pumpkin is sometimes made of other winter squashes like butternut. Different squashes have different flavors and some taste more “pumpkin-y” than those little orange ones we usually associate with this time of year in America. Making the puree myself means I can figure out which flavors I like best, and I have a bit more control over the process. Some squash will be sweeter than others, and some squash may be more watery or stringy, so keep that in mind when experimenting.
Many people use sugar pumpkins for pumpkin pie – these are the smaller, round, orange-skinned pumpkins, not the big jack-o-lantern ones. This year, I found local cheese pumpkins on sale for ridiculously good prices, so I couldn’t resist picking one up. These pumpkins have a very rustic look. Their skin is sort of a pale peach color and they kind of look like a wheel of cheese, which is where their name comes from. The flesh, however, is very bright orange. I’ve used cheese pumpkins before in a pumpkin challah bread recipe (which I might have to try again soon), and I loved it, so I thought it would work well here. Despite the name, it is actually a sweet and flavorful pumpkin that doesn’t taste like cheese.
To prepare a pumpkin puree, wash your pumpkin and twist off the stem if there is still one on it. Hack into manageable pieces with a good heavy knife or cleaver. I hacked my cheese pumpkin into four, but a sugar pumpkin or small squash can usually just be cut in half. Scoop out the seeds – save for roasting and eating later while your pie chills. Place cut site down on a greased baking sheet. Tent with foil and bake in a 350 degree over for 40 minutes or until the flesh can easily be pierced by a fork. Remove from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool to the touch. Then use a large spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skins. Puree the flesh with your choice of machinery. If the pumpkin seems watery, you can squeeze through a cheese cloth to remove extra liquid, or cook the pumpkin in a sauce pan to let some of the water reduce out. This is a beautiful photo tutorial for how to do this, from a site I thoroughly enjoy.
A note about the picture above: I had some pumpkin cookie cutters and some extra dough. I thought I’d make some little pumpkin toppers. Next time, I’ll toast them first before adding them to the top of the pie…
- 1 pastry crust
- 1½ cups mashed/pureed cooked pumpkin of your choice
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp molasses
- ½ tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1 14.5 oz can of evaporated milk
- Preheat oven to 450 F degrees.
- Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry, crimp edges if desired. Poke holes in the bottom of the dough using a fork.
- In mixing bowl, blend pumpkin, sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
- Blend egg yolks and evaporated milk; stir into pumpkin mixture.
- Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into pie crust plate. Place pie onto a baking sheet to catch any potential spills or overflow.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Turn temperature to 325 F, and bake 30 minutes longer or until firm when jiggled slightly.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap (gently so that it does not touch the warm pie filling), and allow to chill for several hours in the refrigerator. Chill overnight for the best texture.
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...