Monday, October 12, 2009

Scratch pumpkin pie

The Ferry Plaza was packed on Saturday when Stacy and went to do our weekly shopping and to meet our friend Crosby for lunch. Crosby had invited us to watch the air show from the roof of his building on Telegraph hill so we invited him to join us for lunch to make a full day together. I enjoy how the changing of the seasons affects our diet as we try to eat seasonally from the farmer’s market as much as possible. As we are moving into the cooler and wetter months, we are craving comfort foods and our taste for white wine wanes as our enjoyment of full bodied red wines increases.

This week I am experimenting with making pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread starting from fresh sugar pie pumpkins instead of opening a can. Several vendors at the market offer the small orange gourds for sale. I bought one last week that I cleaned, quartered and roasted. This week I bought another pumpkin to try poaching to see if it works better. The roasting method caused a tough skin to form on the inside of the pumpkin. I am sure poaching the pumpkin will prevent that from happening, although I am concerned about having too much moisture content in finished product.

Why go to all that trouble when canned pumpkin is so widely available and so inexpensive? For me there are three reasons:

1) Taste: Starting from fresh produce always produces a fresher tasting final dish. It also lets me control all of the seasonings that get added to the produce.

2) Source: When I start from fresh produce that I buy directly from the grower I know where the plant that bore the fruit grew and how it was tended by the farmer. I get to know the farmers that I buy from so that I know that we are eating produce that is grown using protocols that do not include chemicals or manipulation of the produce (like hot housing).

3) Satisfaction: Making a dish all the way from fresh produce to finished product is a satisfying and fulfilling journey. The simpler the better for me too.

Here’s the recipe for pumpkin pie:

2 cups pumpkin puree:
To make the puree, get a sugar pie pumpkin and cut off the top. Cut the pumpkin in half from stem to bloom. Scrape out the seeds and the stringy innards. Clean and toast the seeds for a nice snack. I like mine with sea salt and a bit of pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the pumpkin halves skin side up in a baking dish with 2 inches of water (This is the poaching method). Bake for about 45 minutes until the pumpkin flesh is soft. If the water gets nearly all evaporated, add boiling water to keep the poaching process going. Cool, remove the skin and puree the flesh of the pumpkin.

¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
12 oz unsweetened evaporated milk

Mix the ingredients together well.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Pour mix into a 9 inch baked pie shell (blind bake a nice flour and butter crust). Protect the exposed crust edges with aluminum foil so they don’t burn.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. You may remove the crust protection in the last 10 minutes of baking to crisp up the crust edges.

I like my pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream (not the stuff from a can!). I sometimes whip my cream flavored with a bit of almond liqueur.

This pie is always a hit at Thanksgiving. We will make the pie at the November 7th meetup. There are still four spots available.

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