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This is the time of year when pumpkin patches are on the mind. Alongside the highway, on the way to the ferries, the large pumpkin fields of Mitchell’s Farm are full of parents and children in search of the perfect pumpkin.
These aren’t the best eating pumpkins, truth be told. These are carving pumpkins. You know, for jack o’lanterns. Pretty much the only part of these pumpkins that gets eaten is the seeds (I mean, you can make allll sorts of delicious things – like roasted pumpkin soup, or stuffed roasted pumpkin, or grilled pumpkin spears, or ricotta pumpkin agnollotti – but what I’m saying is that these pumpkins mostly seem to get used to make hallowe’en decorations). Mmmmmmmm … roasted pumpkin seeds! Delish! I like them with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning salt on them. Alternatively, a little olive oil, some garlic powder, salt and pepper. You scoop out all the gooey stringy insides of the pumpkin and pick out the seeds from the pulp. I like to roll them around in a paper towel or a dish cloth to get the majority of the pulp off before tossing them with the oil and seasonings. Some people rinse them to get all the goo off, but I like how it adds to the pumpin-y flavour and caramelizes a little. In the oven on cookie sheets at 350 for some random period of time equal to how long it takes for them to get toasty and Bob’s Your Uncle! (where does that saying come from anyway?).
What I really love pumpkins for, in case no one picked this up from my Brandied Fruits post the other day, is pumpkin pie. God love a good pumpkin pie! For true pumpkin pie, made from scratch, you’re supposed to use sugar pumpkins, not the big, tough old things that people use to create ghoulish artwork every October 31st. Of course, I am usually in a time crunch when I make pumpkin pie because it seems to be a holiday thing and the meals it goes best with are those that involve a lot of oven-intensive dishes – turkey, candied yams, stuffing, roast vegetables and the like. So the pie almost always gets short-shrift. Horrific, if you ask me. It also means I almost always … okay … always use canned pumpkin. Nothing wrong with that actually. Just make sure to just use the pure pumpkin, not the instant pumpkin pie filling pumpkin.
I’m not one to buy my pastry pre-made. I pride myself on my ability to make a great pastry. So that’s what I do. I used to use the recipe off the back of the Fluffo box (vegetable shortening – though lard is also good), but either I have somehow invented that in my own head, or they changed the recipe this year. Either of these things is possible. In any event, I can’t share my fail-safe perfect pastry recipe here with you. Not yet. I am in an ongoing heated competition with some other pie-makers and this competition will continue until I am, once and for all, named the Supreme High Best Piemaker. Until then, top secret baby. Top Secret.
I will share one of my favorite pumpkin pie recipes with you though. It’s not mine, but I often rely on it. It’s from the Silver Palate Cookbook and it’s awesome. Go here to read the whole thing. I frequently use this recipe as a base for my own variations. I will tell you this tidbit – if you switch out the ground ginger for fresh ginger, and if you add a couple tablespoons of molasses and a few spoonfuls of maple syrup, instead of the brown sugar … mmmmmmmmm. I should also add that although I like this recipe because it is not hugely sweet, I often use even less sugar than it calls for. I tend to do that. I like to taste the fruit, or vegetable as the case may be, in my pies.
Pumpkin Pie should always be made Deep Dish. Why? Because then the slices are bigger. Duh! Like most custard based pies, it’s tricky to make a pumpkin pie that doesn’t crack in the oven and most recipes you will find are not for a deep dish pie. The key is to start it out hot (425 – 450) for the first 10 minutes, like you would with a cheesecake, and then turn the heat down to 325 and cook it slowly over a long time. Watch it though. Don’t leave it in too long. It’s okay if it’s still ever so slightly shiny and wet looking in the middle, so long as a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Don’t worry – they always set.
I prefer my pumpkin pie still warm out of the oven and smothered in fresh whipping cream. Maple whipped cream is good. If you make some candied pecans, or even pralines, and crunch them up as a topping for the pie, that’s good too. Because pumpkin is a vegetable, I like to tell myself that it is a healthy meal choice and I definitely enjoy my pie for breakfast.
This last Thanksgiving, I made two pumpkin pies (one for each Thanksgiving dinner I went to). My kid had a bite of my pumpkin pie – his first. Then he proceeded to eat half of my piece of pie. Then he had a whole piece to himself. He is definitely my child.