Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin Pie, Charlie Brown

As illustrated in this photo from last October, there are many reasons I love Fall.  In addition to spending lots of quality time enjoying beautiful weather with friends, I LOVE pumpkins.  It's kind of a problem, actually.

Signs of a perfect autumn day.
It started when I was pretty young.  There was a real estate agent in our area, Judi Finney, who left pumpkins on everyone's doorstep every October.  While my grandmother may not have been the best cook in the world (hey, we were poor and she did the best she could), she could make a MEAN pumpkin pie.  In fact, while we grew up on every form of processed food you could imagine, I distinctly remember that we almost always had pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkins.  This was our family's big "heirloom" recipe, and this was the recipe that Granny tried to pass on to me for the recipe book at my bridal shower.  (I also told her it was a cop-out, since I had been the one who typed out the recipe for her in the first place!)  

I knew my pie so well that I could look at two pies sitting next to each other on the dining room table and knowing which one was made with the canned pumpkin by its distinctly George Hamilton-esque color.  (I'd always pass that pie out to everyone else in order to try and score the good stuff.)  

I was SO excited last week when the farmer's market finally had pumpkins available.  I purchased one right away, roasted it (along with some other hard-shell squash I had laying around) and tucked it in my refrigerator until I had time to make the pie I had been dreaming of since last fall.

So, in spite of a crazy Sunday filled with marching competitions, yoga, laundry, yoga, grocery shopping, taking care of the dogs, and yoga... I decided to make my first pumpkin pie of the year.  

This is my grandmother's recipe--it's a little different than most, but I LOVE it and hope you will too.  I would also like to note that Granny didn't really believe in measuring ingredients (even when baking), so you'll see that my process is a little bit different than the printed recipe.  (She also didn't believe in pre-heating the oven, but I wouldn't go that far.) And yes, fresh pumpkin takes more time but it also makes all the difference in the world.  

Granny's Pumpkin Pie

Gather your ingredients.  FRESH roasted pumpkin, sugar, flour, sweetened condensed milk (fat free here), vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.  Be sure you have a pie crust (I cheat and use the unroll-and-bake kind), a pie pan, and a clean tea towel handy as well. 

Fresh pumpkin has a lot of water in it, so start by piling  the pumpkin into your tea towel.

Then gather it into a ball and squeeze as much water out of it as you possibly can.  (Pumpkin juice, Harry Potter fans?)

Once you've squeezed as much water as possible out of the pumpkin, measure it out.  The recipe technically calls for 1 1/4 c. of pumpkin but since I had 1 1/2 c., I just put it all in there.  (Deviation #1)

Next, you dump your pumpkin, sugar, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger--heavy on the nutmeg; it was Granny's favorite spice!), and flour into the mixing bowl and mix well; scrape down the sides as necessary.  

Next, add each of the two eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Once you've beaten in the eggs, add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Now, 1 c. of sweetened condensed milk always ends up leaving about 3 tbsp left in the can--and since I dumped in extra pumpkin, I just add the rest of the condensed milk and a pinch more flour along with it.  It always works out just fine.  (Beat well.)  

You can choose whether or not to add the water.  If you're using fresh pumpkin, I don't think it needs it--but if you're using (blech! sacrilege!) canned pumpkin, you may want some to thin the filling out.
Prepare your pie crust and have either pie shields or a couple of strips of aluminum foil (not shown) handy.  

Check it out!  I can flute anything! (ha!)
Fill your pie--be sure it isn't TOO full though!

Put the pie on a baking sheet and wrap the foil around the crust to protect it from burning.

Put the pie in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350°F for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, take the pie shields/foil off of the pie and allow it to continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.  (Note: When I baked this pie, I didn't take the foil off until there were only 15 minutes left in the oven, so the pastry is a bit pasty looking--but it tastes okay.)

When the pie emerges, it will look something like this--golden brown and fluffy.  Give the pie a little wiggle before you take it out of the oven so you can be sure that the center is set. 

As the pie cools, the puffiness in the middle of the pie goes away.  All you're left with is this pure deliciousness.

I find it so delicious that I kind of stared at my pie as I savored the first succulent bite... and even though I hadn't said a word, Duff Man accused me of bragging about my amazing pie!  I guess my face said everything I needed it to.

Granny's Pumpkin Pie

1 ¼ c. Pumpkin (or a little more.)
¾ c. sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon (ground)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp all-purpose flour
2 eggs--slightly beaten
1 c. sweetened condensed milk (or a little more.  I had the Fat Free kind in the pantry and the final product tastes just fine.)
2 tbsp water
½ tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour in a mixing bowl. 
  • Add eggs and mix well
  • Add evaporated milk, water and vanilla, and mix well.
  • Pour into crust-lined pie pan.  Cover the edges of the pie shell with foil to avoid overly browning them.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 F for 15 min
  • Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 35 min longer or until set.
  • Enjoy!

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