Kick the Can: Pumpkin Pie From the Ground Up
Every spring we put a couple of pumpkin plants in the garden of our weekend house, a cozy retreat from city life, which we refer to as "the creek house." The place is located not far from Half Moon Bay, ostensibly the pumpkin growing capital of the U.S., so it has never come as a surprise that our pumpkins always thrive down there, keeping us in pies and muffins throughout the fall.
This year we upped the ante and planted not just a few seedlings, but an entire pumpkin patch replete with sugar pie and rouge d'estampes pumpkins for eating, little dumpling pumpkins for decorating, and big carving pumpkins for Halloween. By September, the pumpkins were thriving and I was counting the days until we would begin harvesting.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one doing so. Turns out a small pack of wild boar came upon my beloved pumpkins and took out the entire patch before I could get to it. They left behind a single, four-pound sugar pumpkin, just enough for a couple of Thanksgiving pies.
I'm mourning my pumpkin patch, but grateful for my lone pumpkin. I'll roast and puree it for pies this week. Why not join me in making your Thanksgiving pie with a real, honest to goodness pumpkin, too?
Now, don't go running scared. It's neither hard to do nor does it take much time. Simply roast a sugar pie pumpkin until tender, spoon out the cooked flesh, and puree. That's it. Cook a couple of pumpkins at once and you'll have enough of the nutrient-rich vegetable not only for pie, but pumpkin muffins, pancakes, soup, and any other seasonal favorites.
Starting with a whole pumpkin versus a can is pretty darn satisfying, not to mention the fact that it's tastier, more nutritious, and gives you major bragging rights with the in-laws. Bring the kids into the kitchen so they can see that their Thanksgiving pie comes from an actual pumpkin.
To save time on the big day, do all of your pumpkin prep one or two days ahead and keep it in the fridge. Or cook it even sooner, seal it, and store it in the freezer until needed. Be sure to buy of a sugar pumpkin, available at farmer's markets, organic markets, and many supermarkets. The ones sitting on your front stoop for the past month are stringier, more watery, and lack the flavor of a good cooking pumpkin
As for pie recipes, this Classic Pumpkin Pie from Cooking Light earned household-wide raves when my daughter Rosie made it a few weeks ago using a graham cracker crust. Plus, it's light enough to pass for breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving!
Then there's this Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Walnut Topping from Bon Appetit, which is delicious if you are looking for something a little more decadent. It graced our Thanksgiving table a couple of years ago.
And if you have leftover pumpkin puree, check out these healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins from Meal Makeover Moms.
Now, as for cooking that pumpkin, these photos and the recipe below will guide you on your way. And as far as those wild boar go? I'm thinking pork sausage might be awfully tasty in the stuffing this year.
1 four-pound sugar pie pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the pumpkin in half down the center. Set the 2 halves, cut-side-down on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until the pumpkin flesh is very tender (so tender you can easily mash it with a fork), about 50 to 60 minutes.
Let it cool enough to handle. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Discard. Then, scoop the flesh away from the skin and put it straight into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Discard the skin.
Run the processor until the pumpkin is a smooth puree, a minute or so. If you don't have a food processor, you can do this with a blender, hand blender, or potato masher.
Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Makes about 3 cups of pumpkin puree.