Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Simplyfying the Rocket Science of Homemade Pumpkin Pie

She was an imp, my grandmother Josephine. Silver hair piled high on her head, an apron glued to her waist at all times, she was not even 5 foot tall, even with her wispy bun. But still, she  maintained total control of her kitchen. No one was allowed in when she was cooking unless they were invited.

She invited me when I was 6.

It was Thanksgiving day on that chilly Chicago morning and pies needed to be made. She still used a wood stove, back then in the early 1960's, and her pumpkin did not slid out of a can, it was dug out of the actual orange squash. I liked shoving my hand into the mushy innards, pulling the seeds out through wet slimy innards and setting them aside to be roasted later.

It was then she pulled out the biggest kitchen knife I'd ever seen and chopped up the pumpkin into big hunks. She poured salt in my hands and instructed me to rub it over the vegetable chunks before she arranged them in a metal roaster pan splashed with a little water and then sliding it all into the stoves fired-up belly.

Not so long ago I taught my own grandchildren the same process; how to make pumpkin pie from real pumpkins. It's not rocket science but it does take a little time. Like my own grandmother we cleaned out the pumpkin and chopped up the veggie flesh.

But I cheated and used a natural gas oven. To start,  bake the pumpkin for 30 minutes at 350 and a little more time to allow the skin to cool, making it easy to remove the hard covering from the orange pieces.  Now turn the oven up to 400 degrees. You'll need it for the pie soon.

The rest of the recipe goes like this
     2 cups mashed cooked fresh pumpkin
     8 oz thick cream (I prefer raw milk with it's own natural cream)
     1/2 cup brown sugar
     1/4 cup raw honey (locally grown is best)
     2 large free range eggs lightly beaten
     1 teaspoon cinnamon
     1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
     1/2 ground nutmeg
Mix all together well and set aside.  Now gather your supplies for the crust and set all your crust anxieties aside as well. All you need to remember to make good pie crust is one word: COLD. The colder your ingredients and equipment the flakier and tastier your crust will be.

You will need
     pinch or two of salt
     1 stickhard  butter or 1/2 cup pure lard well chilled. (As the fat melts in the oven it will push the layers  of dough apart, giving you the flaky crust all cooks desire)
     2 & 2/3 cups flour also well chilled
     1/4 cup ICE water or very cold Vodka (the alchohol evaporates in the oven)

Place the flour in a cold bowl, add salt. Add the butter or lard in small amounts cutting them into the flour with a metal pastry cutter until the fat takes on the shape of small peas. Then slowly drizzle 1/2 of the water or vodka into the flour mixture. Mix.  But do not over mix. Add just enough additional liquid until the flour begins to leave the sides of the bowl and cling to your spoon or mixer paddle. Do not over mix. Yes, I know I said that already, but it's important.

Sprinkle some flour on your counter and begin rolling out the dough with a wooden rolling pin. Preferably one left to you by your own mother/grandmother/mailman. Rub a small amount of flour on it to keep the dough from sticking. When the dough circle looks big enough and round enough to cover the bottom of your pie pan, fold it in half.

Carefully lift it over your pre-greased pie pan and unfold it so the pie pan is covered. Use a sharp knife  to cut off the extra dough hanging over the pan and then pinch up the dough edges with your fingers. Make any pattern you want, this is YOUR pie!

Give your pie filling a good final stir and pour it into your pie crust to about 1/4 inch from the top. Slide it in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 350 and bake another 30 minutes or until the edges are brown and the filling feels spongy under your finger. You can cover your pie crust edges with a fancy crust cover if you want but a little edge burning just adds to your pies final beauty.

Let cool (or not) and EAT!

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