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Wednesday, October 6

From Jack-O-Lantern To Pie!!

Last night, I posted on how to keep a jack-o-lantern looking good for a whole month.  I also noted how to turn those seeds (and there are soooo many) that come from just one pumpkin into a great snack!!  Well, today, I'm going to explain how to use the "meat" of a pumpkin to make one of the cornerstones of the holidays...Pumpkin Pie!!

Pumpkin pie is a simple thing to make.  Making the filling is just as easy, though typically, most of us use "canned" pumpkin when making them (or simply cheat, and buy a pre-made pie).  I freely admit...I've done it all three ways.  Basically, it comes down to much I have.  But, in my humble opinion, NOTHING tastes as good as an old-fashioned, done from scratch pie.  It just oozes family and togetherness!!

Most chefs will say that you really shouldn't use the meat from a carving pumpkin to make pies...that you should use "pie" pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkins, these are the smaller ones you'll find in the market that people usually paint rather than carve).  This is actually best.  The meat from carving pumpkins tends to be less sweet, and little stringier.  The end result...the pie...comes out yummier!!  But, since you're already planning on grabbing your carving pumpkin, it's nothing to grab one or two 3-4 pound sugar pumpkins at the same time (they are usually quite cheap, since most are looking for the big ones).  Ready to begin?


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Begin by washing the pumpkins, then cutting off the caps of the pumpkins.  The cap would be the stem.  Just slice it right off.  Once done, slice the pumpkin in half, from top to bottom.  Using a strong spoon, scoop out all the seeds and loose fibers, leaving the solid meat where it is (kind of like cleaning out a cantalope).

Grease a large baking sheet, and lay the cut pumpkin on it, cut side up or down (down is easier, cause it won't roll).  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until you can easily slide a fork right through the skin.  Remove from oven, and cool until easy to handle.

Back to the spoon...scoop out all the flesh (no skin) into a large bowl.  Now, we get to the tricky part.  You have to mash ALL that pretty stuff up...completely.  No lumps.  The easiest way is using a food processer, but it CAN be done using a plain old potato masher...just takes a little elbow grease.  What you end up with is a simple puree.  If it seems too thick or dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it's the consistency you want (if you end up adding too much water, it's easy to simply strain using cheesecloth).

To store, simply spoon into small zippy freezer bags, 1 cup per bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze until needed.  Most pie recipes make 2 pies, which would equal about 2 cups of puree.  It will last 6-9 months.  Now...ready to make pie?


For Filling:
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 12oz can evaporated milk (NOT condensed)
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Crusts:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening (Crisco butter flavor is excellent)
1/2 cup ice water (may use less, but water MUST be ice cold)

Prepare the crusts first.  In a large bowl, mix flour and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut shortening into the flour mixture, until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, mixing, until it forms a solid ball.  Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour.  Once thoroughly chilled, unwrap, and roll out the crust to about 1/8 inch thick.  Lay your pie pan over top, and using a knife, cut a circle around it, leaving about 1/2-1 inch extra space all the way around.  Place cut circle in pie plate, lightly pressing to fit.  Trim off any excess, then use a fork to poke several small holes in the bottom only (this prevents it from bubbling up while baking); set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix all ingredients with a wire whisk or hand mixer, until thoroughly blended.  Place both pie crusts onto a large baking sheet (or separate baking sheets...makes it easier to transfer to oven), and pour equal amounts of the pumpkin mixture into each crust, coming up to within 1/4 inch of the top of each.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, testing for doneness by inserting a knife 1 inch from the edge...if it comes out clean, it's done.  If you wish, you can use some leftover crust to make a decoration for the top of each pie (I shape little leaves).  Wait to add those until it's been baking for at least 30 minutes, to prevent them from sinking.

Serve with whipped cream.  Makes 2 pies.  ENJOY!!!


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