by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.
— Linus, "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
Images of Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a pumpkin pie over a meal of thanksgiving paints a nice picture, but it's a myth. Native Americans did use pumpkins for food, but while stewed, roasted, fried, boiled, and dried pumpkin were part of the native diet long before European settlers arrived, baking them into pies had yet to be mastered.
Early "pies" might have consisted of hollowing out the pumpkin, filling them with milk and spices, and then baking them in hot ashes. It was not until 1796 that the first American cookbook by Amelia Simmons, American Cookery by an American Orphan, developed recipes for foods native to America. Her pumpkin puddings were baked in a crust and similar to present day pumpkin pies.
Most pumpkin pie recipes start with a can of store-bought pumpkin pie mix which is sweetened and spiced. But you can quickly and easily make your own pumpkin puree at home. Don't be dissuaded by the color, its a bright yellow rather than the rusty orange of puree in a can, but it tastes so much better.
My mother always used a long-neck pumpkin to make her puree. This was actually a squash related to Butternut. About 18-24 inches in length with a 4-5 inch appreciably curved neck, it is sweet with an orange color. According to many gardeners, this is the best pumpkin for pies.
You can use a sugar pumpkin as well. These are roughly 6-8 inches in diameter and look just like the larger decorative pumpkins, only smaller. Stay away from those big pumpkins because they can be stringy.
2 cups pumpkin puree (1 5-lb pumpkin)
2 cups milk
2 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
The pumpkin can be either boiled or baked to make your homemade puree, though baking tends to retain more flavor.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash pumpkin and cut in half. Remove seeds and pith. Rub pumpkin with olive oil inside and out. Sprinkled with salt and place on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake 35-40 minutes or until tender when pierced. Allow to cool and remove skin with a knife.
To boil, wash pumpkin and cut in half. Remove seeds and pith. Peel and cut into chunks. Place in a large pot and fill with water. Boil until pumpkin is soft (about 20 minutes).
The flesh part pf the pumpkin can then be cubed and mashed to make a puree. Homemade pumpkin puree naturally has more water than it’s canned counterpart, so drain very well, particularly of boiling because water gets absorbed.
Separate egg yolks and mix with pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Scald milk and add it to mixture. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
Beat egg whites until they are stiff (they should peak). Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Pour into two 8-inch refrigerated pie shell. Bake on 400° for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
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