Pumpkins are one of America’s oldest crops but funny enough, when most people get ready to make a pumpkin pie for the holidays they go to their pantry instead of their local farm stand. Usually canned, jarred or frozen vegetables are used when they are out of season but Fall is just the time when pumpkins are at their peak. It’s like, hooray let’s celebrate the Fall harvest season with pumpkin that’s been in a can in my pantry for two years! Oh, and I’ll add a can of processed condensed milk too and bake it in a pie crust from my freezer. Dessert in under an hour. It’s easy to see the appeal of course – this pie took me the better part of an afternoon to make, including making the pie dough (Pâte Brisée) and roasting the pumpkin. Of course I was baking and styling it for a photoshoot, which makes every recipe takes twice as long as it should, but it was worth it and it’s the only way I’ll make pumpkin pie from now on.
In 1929 Libby’s, a meat canning company, introduced it’s own canned pumpkin line eliminating the need for families to roast their own pumpkin. Eliminating the need to roast your own pumpkin however, also eliminates the joy in roasting your own pumpkin. Going to a local farm and picking out the right baking pumpkin, and turning it into a time-honored favorite is really an amazing experience. The Slow Food movement that promotes local, high-quality ingredients and recipes has its rewards beyond just taste and nutrition, it’s about also taking the time to appreciate everything that goes into growing and cooking real homemade food. If you want to really savor one of the best things about the Fall season, roast a pumpkin. It takes 40 minutes after you cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. As an added benefit, the smell of roasting pumpkin in your house will be better than any pumpkin scented-candle you can ever buy.
We too grew up with pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin and canned evaporated milk, and truth be told we absolutely loved it! I craved it every year uncontrollably as soon as the Fall season kicked in. It wasn’t until moving to the heart of Bucks County that I was determined to make a pumpkin pie from scratch using “real” pumpkin (aka roasted fresh pumpkin). It just looks different, and yes it tastes different. Of course over time I realized that a big part of what I craved was the spices – the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and clove combination known as the beloved “pumpkin pie spice” that is so highly marketed this time of year in everything from candles to cookies to coffee. These warming spices have an intoxicating fragrance and are incredibly addictive. When you combine these magical aromas and flavors with the creaminess and velvety texture of fresh pumpkin, baked into a custard pie with luxuriously fresh cream and eggs, it’s possible that it may become your next addiction too.
Canned pumpkin becomes oxidized during processing and many people actually prefer this taste as they’ve become used to it over decades of canned food consumption, and even find it a comforting memory of their childhood. Green beans. Corn. Peas. Yams. Cranberry sauce. It’s ingrained into many of our memories and it’s hard to shake loose. Some find the taste off-putting and metallic, but only notice it once they’ve had the in-season fresh version of these same vegetables. You may not actually know what pumpkin purée you prefer until you bake them side-by-side, and slow down and really think about the taste. We’ve done it and it’s really fun and very educational, especially when you set up a blind taste test with all things being equal except for the pumpkin purée. I hope that like we did, you too fall in love with fresh pumpkin.
- 2 cups roasted pumpkin purée (recipe below)
- 1 cup half and half
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 8 oz. unsalted chilled butter (2 sticks cut into tiny cubes, and then chilled again)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ⅓ cup ice water
- 1 egg for eggwash
- 1 baking pumpkin (4 to 5 pound)
- Combine flour and salt in a bowl, and then add the chilled cubes of butter. The colder the butter, the better!
- Using your hands, pinch the butter in to the flour until the mixture feels crumbly and turns slightly golden, the color of cornmeal. Leaving some small lumps of butter is just fine, and will help make the crust flakier.
- Add the ice water into the middle of the dry ingredients in small amounts, stir together with your hands until the dough just comes together. If all the flour has not worked its way into the dough, sprinkle in a little more water until it all combines.
- Form a ball with the dough, allow to chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand for about 10 minutes. Roll out the dough into a circle slightly bigger than your 9" pie pan.
- Carefully lay the flattened dough over your pie can and carefully push into place with your fingertips.
- Cut away any excess dough that goes beyond ½" past the edge of pan.
- Crimp the crust with your thumb and forefingers to make a simple crimped crust or try a snipped tab crust that looks like leaves. Snip the crust at a 45 degree angle, about ½ inch apart, all around the circumference of the pan. Then go around and pull back every other tab, to create an alternating leaf pattern. Carefully prick the bottom of the crust and the edges with a fork.
- Brush the edges of the crust with a beaten egg, and then put into the refrigerator for a ½ hour to chill the crust so it doesn't shrink during baking.
- Remove the pan from the refrigerator and line the crust with parchment paper. Fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool while you make the pumpkin purée.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Carefully remove the stem from the pumpkin and cut the pumpkin in half with a large chef knife or a cleaver and a mallet.
- Scoop out the seeds from each pumpkin half, and remove as much loose stringy fibers as you can.
- Place each half face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the skin with a fork.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool for 45 minutes to an hour, until cool enough to scoop out all the flesh into a bowl, and reserve for the pie filling.
- Add the roast pumpkin and all the other pie filling ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth and well blended - about 1 minute, until no pumpkin fibers are visible.
- Pour into the cooled pie crust shell, and bake the pie in a 350F oven for about 45 minutes to 55 minutes until the edges of the custard are set, but the center slightly still jiggles. Allow to cool at least an hour before serving.