The Great Pumpkin Arises Bearing Gifts for Good Boys and Girls
October 11, 2003 3:28 PM   Subscribe

The Greatest Pumpkin Pie. Just in time, I hope, for your Thanksgiving dinners, I declare the world's best "pumpkin" pie. More inside.
posted by five fresh fish (45 comments total)
I was going to put a link to a pumpkin pie recipe, but my recipe is better. Always.

So hie thee out to the local grocer and pick up a Buttercup and a Butternut squash. Slice in half, lay cut-side-down on a cookie sheet, toss in the over at about 350F for about an hour.

Remove from oven, allow to cool. Run it through a potato ricer, if you have such a device handy: it makes for very nice puree. Slam three cups of the mush into a double boiler. Crank the heat.

Now go hog wild on the spices. Using between a half and a full teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger puree, nutmeg, allspice, white pepper, a dash of espresso-ground coffee, lemon zest, coriander, and what-have-you. Seriously. Proportions are not of great consequence. When in doubt, use less and add more. Mix like mad and sample frequently.

Add about a half-cup of brown sugar, the darker the better. Add another half-cup of maple syrup. Or whatever good sugars you have on hand. Except molasses: don't go heavy on the molasses. I did that once, and had to toss the batch. I don't much like white sugar, either, but do what you can. Mix well and sample. Adjust to taste.

Now drop in about three cups of half-and-half. Damn, this was a healthy recipe up to this point! Stir well. Sample frequently.

Add a couple of eggs. Beat them first, or at least drop them into the slop and give 'em a quick whip in the pool they form before you beat 'em into the mush. Now, I dunno about the eggs in your neck of the woods, but in mine I can be reasonably confident that they don't have salmonella. If you think salmonella's a threat (and I've had salmonella food poisoning: it is a damn serious, please-kill-me-now, oh-I-so-want-to-die threat, avoid it at all costs) then I strongly suggest using prepackaged egg whites.

You'll probably find the eggs have whacked the flavour. So you'll have at it with the spices. Can't have too much cinnamon, really. And nutmeg is really nice. Go for it. You can't easily make a mistake.

As the squash mush thickens, slam in about a half-cup or so of dark rum, and a long shot of vanilla extract (not artificial). Have a sip for yourself, too, and then sample your mush. Adjust flavour as desired.

Let the mush finish off cooking, and make your crust: a half-kilo bag of good ginger snaps (or make your own!), a half-cup of icing/confectioner's sugar, and about a 2/3 cup of butter. Melt the butter, process the snaps to crumbs, and mix all together. Make pie shells, bake for 15m to firm 'em up, then glop the slop into them.

Set them out on the deck to cool, or fire them into the refrigerator -- or toss them in the oven to stay warm, doesn't matter.

Break out the whipping cream. Slice and serve.

Best. Pie. Ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:29 PM on October 11, 2003 [1 favorite]

Now as I've experimented through the years, I've discovered:

- pumpkin pie is best without any pumpkins being involved at all.

- you can try fewer eggs; the mush seems to firm up nicely without them.

- you can use lighter or less cream.

- you can not use only molasses.

- the glop should be very thick when you put it into the shells. If it's too thin, keep it on the double boiler: reduce the moisture.

Now, how about you folk share your best seasonal recipes? The cranberry crop here in BC is outrageously successful this year: what can I do with 'em?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:32 PM on October 11, 2003

fff is slowly becoming Miguel?
posted by kickingtheground at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2003

pumpkin pie is best without any pumpkins being involved at all

then how is it a pumpkin pie?

you're receipe seems to be for a squash pie not a pumpkin pie.

i bet sarah lee is turning in her grave.
posted by Stynxno at 3:40 PM on October 11, 2003

Oops. One last thing before I head out to share my pies with my friends:

- the mush recipe is good for 2 pies.
- the crust recipe is probably good for 3 shells.

Does Miguel make his own food, or does he have others do it for him?

Come to think of it, do any European cultures have a squash-pie tradition? Maybe this is exclusively a weird North American thing. I'm pretty sure it's not exclusively a weird FFFish thing, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:41 PM on October 11, 2003

pumpkin pie is best without any pumpkins being involved at all

posted by rxrfrx at 3:43 PM on October 11, 2003

Come to think of it, do any European cultures have a squash-pie tradition? Maybe this is exclusively a weird North American thing.
According to EB:
In Europe pumpkin is mainly served as a vegetable; in the United States and Canada pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:50 PM on October 11, 2003

Hey, I started out making great pies using pumpkin. Now I make even better pie, without pumpkin.

Pumpkins are bland. They're an overspecialized breed grown now for two reasons: pig feed and halloween carving. They are not grown for taste.

There are many more flavourful squashes available, and I find Buttercup has the best colour and Butternut and Acorn the best flavour.

In a world where the shiate that splorges out of a can is considered "pumpkin" filling, I think it's quite right that I call my pie a pumpkin pie.

Anyway, now I really gotta run. Someone please post a good recipe!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:52 PM on October 11, 2003

My Nana cooked in the style of Pennsylvania Dutch,
and her pumpkin-pecan pie was the best.
The bottom was a thin layer of pecan pie--a sweet touch
--with pumpkin filling making up the rest.

(IMHO, only a bumpkin
would eat pumpkin pie without pumpkin.)
posted by troybob at 3:58 PM on October 11, 2003

At least canned pumpkin is good for keeping elderly cats "regular." Believe me, my 16yo guy gets more excited now when we open a new can of pumpkin than he used to get when opening up canned wet food. Best use for the stuff in my opinion.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:08 PM on October 11, 2003

Great--at this year's Thanksgiving celebration
I'll be thinking of Bathbone's cat's constipation.
posted by troybob at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2003

my favorite fresh cranberry sauce: wash and sort (tossing out the mushy/shriveled ones) the cranberries : in a heavy saucepan place 4 cups of cranberries along with 2 cups of sugar (I find the white stuff works best in this recipe), 2 cups of water, the zest from 2 oranges (minced finely) and minced candied ginger to taste (at least 4 good size pieces (I like it zippy so I add more). bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer over a medium flame for about 20 minutes (until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens to a loose jam-like consistency) cool then jar up. will keep for a week or so in the fridge or it can be frozen. (ps: try to use organic berries & oranges whenever available)
posted by maus501 at 4:16 PM on October 11, 2003

I can't speak for all of Europe, but I celebrated Thanksgiving of 1980 in the Roman Baths at Bath, England, and our hosts kindly tried to prepare pumpkin pie for the Americans. I don't mean to be ungrateful, but it was hands-down the worse pumpkin pie I've ever had. And that includes the time that I bought a slice of what I thought was pumpkin pie at my church's fish fry, and it turned out to be sweet potato pie. Proof positive to me that pumpkin pie needs pumpkin. FFF, I'll be happy to try your squash pie someday, but, please, don't call it pumpkin pie.
posted by kcmoryan at 4:45 PM on October 11, 2003

so canned is bad??
who'da thunk it.
posted by billybobtoo at 4:48 PM on October 11, 2003

Like canned mushrooms, canned pumpkin is an entirely different food from fresh. That doesn't mean it's bad.
posted by kindall at 5:11 PM on October 11, 2003

I bought a slice of what I thought was pumpkin pie at my church's fish fry, and it turned out to be sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato pie is evil.
posted by rushmc at 5:18 PM on October 11, 2003

Sweet potato pie is heaven in my mouth.
Is it just because I'm from the South?
posted by troybob at 5:32 PM on October 11, 2003

i love sweet potatoe pie, but it's a learned addiction....and a southern thing for shure
posted by billybobtoo at 5:48 PM on October 11, 2003

hell, i even like frozen ones you have to mrs smith's
posted by billybobtoo at 5:49 PM on October 11, 2003

I have a recipe for stollens (along with other things to make with yeast dough), but I don't want to post it unless I'm sure y'all want it (it's long). What say you?
posted by notsnot at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2003

The stollens must be posted!

(What's a stollen?)
posted by rhruska at 6:14 PM on October 11, 2003

I'm torn between wanting to discuss pumpkin pie and wanting to discuss what a horrifyingly bad post this is.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:26 PM on October 11, 2003

Yet not so torn you couldn't, of course,
aloud, contribute nothing to the discourse.
posted by troybob at 6:41 PM on October 11, 2003

uh, people? I hate to say it, but much canned "pumpkin" is actually butternut and other squashes, not pumpkin -- and the FDA doesn't really care.
posted by jburka at 6:50 PM on October 11, 2003

They are not grown for taste.

This is the case for most veggies these days. They are grown for size, color, growth speed, looks, crop resistance, long shelf life, toughness in shipping -- how they taste and nutritional content are not high on the list. Buy local organic farmer heirloom stocks.
posted by stbalbach at 7:25 PM on October 11, 2003

ewagoner is an organic farmer who grows "heirloom" pumpkins, among other veggies and herbs.
posted by shoepal at 8:07 PM on October 11, 2003

Sugar pumpkins are grown for taste, and they are the best in pies. Young pumpkins are better than older ones, texture-wise. You can make an excellent pie from a plain old jack-o-lantern pumpkin, you just have to bake it for two hours, then puree and cook it down in a pot for three or four. It's a lot of work. In all squash pies, water is your enemy. You want to concentrate the squash flavor. Also, use heavy cream, not half and half. And since this is a custard we are making (really, it is) use more yolks than whites. Your heart can take it; it's not an every day dessert. Candied ginger mashed in a mortar is a good addition. I agree with the white pepper from FFF's recipe, but question the involvement of coffee. I'll have to try it, it sounds interesting.

My favorite cranberry sauce involves dark rum, cranberries, and piloncillo (Much richer than dark brown sugar). Ginger and clove and a bit of cinnamon for spices. Go about equal on sugar and rum, and add enough cranberries so that the syrup barely covers them. Spice lightly to start, then to taste later. Make it half rum and half water if you want to. Cook until the berries pop and let cool on the stove. It's pretty much Maus501's recipe from above, but with different sugar and rum instead of water.
posted by Nothing at 8:16 PM on October 11, 2003

I buy a small punkin with stem and skin intact for Halloween and I don't carve it, just set it out. After Halloween, I cut it in quarters, scrape out the seeds and bake it, face down, on a shallow baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 45 min. After that, I can just peel the skin off the pumpkin or even easier, scoop it out and use immediately in pumpkin pie pumpkin bread or any number of pumpkin recipes. I also freeze some for later use. Trust me, it tastes way better than canned pumpkin. I have also made squash pie and found it to be delicious, but it is NOT pumpkin, pie, just sayin',
posted by Lynsey at 8:37 PM on October 11, 2003

You know what's good? If you use real pie crust instead of a crumb crust, grind up gingersnaps and pecans, and use this to lightly coat the piecrust before pouring in the pumpkin mixture. This will make the piecrust super crisp.
posted by Charmian at 9:24 PM on October 11, 2003

Er, I suppose I should admit that my pies are different from year to year. This year's experiments were mainly in using the fresh-ground espresso (and only a teaspoon at that, for five pies total; I should have tried more) and the crumb crust.

IMO the whole point of pumpkin pie should be to have fun with the recipe. It's just too much mess to not make it interesting.

Two notes, now that I've et it:
(A) in this incarnation, it can not be served warm. It, alas, doesn't set until chilled. Dammit.
(B) the crumb crust kicked mighty ass. It added a lot of enjoyment to the pie.

I took the crumb crust idea from something I spotted the other day that suggested sprinkling gingersnaps in the pastry. Figured that was too mild a treatment. :-)

If this thread's still active tomorrow morning, or if someone else wants to beat me to it, the Canadian Living "Perfect Processor Pastry" is a never-fail winner, and dead easy.

The white pepper is key to a good pumpkin pie. Just enough to add a bit of a spark to it. The lemon zest needs to be used sparingly, or you'll end up with a lemon pie; very easy to overwhelm the squash. The maple syrup gives a nice touch, and some kickass local honey would do a great job, too.

I used pecans in the squash one year, and didn't care for the effect. I think it could be done successfully, though; perhaps added to the crumb crust.

And my last word on squashes: canned "pumpkin" is the worst crap-in-a-can I can imagine. It's got that awful texture of grade-school paste, with a cloying bite of nasty chemical sweetness, and it sticks to my palate and teeth. It's just gross. You can't even begin to compare it to real squash. It's not even the difference between apples and oranges -- it's the difference between blue freezies and blueberries.

Jacquilynne: dead right you are. But at least you've got two or three good Thanksgiving recipes out of it. And I don't make a habit of this.

stbalbach: Bunny Luv carrots are the exception. Best damn carrots ever. Grown on some huge greenhouse farm in California, probably all a bunch of clones of some unfortunate good-tasting carrot a decade ago, probably using nasty chemical ferts... but the best carrots I've had. [like a fool, I keep trying the local farmer's carrots, and they're just not as good.]

Nothing: I didn't realize the yolks were so important. And that, knowing it's a custard! Doh! Next year, then, I'm going to try more yolk, less white. Heart attacks for all. And because your recipe calls for rum, I'm going to give it a try in preference to maus's. Yum!

And, finally, for all you mortar-mashing folk, you might be interested in mail-ordering this wonderful grater/zester. It really is fantastic.

Okay. I think I'm done.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:01 PM on October 11, 2003 [1 favorite]

On the question of what to call "pumpkin" mash,
I'm on the side of five fresh fash.

As to what kind of food my cats has,
thanks for the hint, bathbone raz!
posted by anewc2 at 11:29 PM on October 11, 2003

The addition of rum and the pie crust ingredients sound brilliant, but I'll stick to using pumpkin simply because I live in central Japan and can only get my hands on the local variety of pumpkin (kabocha) which does in fact have a flavor much closer to the butternut squash. I discovered almost a decade ago that the Japanese pumpkin makes a better pie and now I even track them down to use when I happen to find myself in the States for the holiday.

All who are having such a problem with calling fff's pies "pumpkin" should just do the same if nomenclature is such an issue. For me, it's only an issue of flavor.
posted by squasha at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2003

MetaTalk, dammit. I like pumpkin pie as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous.
posted by languagehat at 9:53 AM on October 12, 2003

I think it was Ann Hodgman (in her seminal work Beat This!) who said that the very best pumpkin pie you've ever eaten is not that much better than the very worst pumpkin pie you've ever eaten, and while I think pumpkin pie is ok, I agree with her.

Sweet potato pie is far superior, even though in their more usual incarnations, I cannot abide sweet potatoes.

Also, B Smith's, a restaurant at Union Station in DC, makes a sweet potato pecan pie that should be a part of everyone's last meal.
posted by anapestic at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2003

Must be a DC thing. A hotel in Foggy Bottom was the first and only place I've had pumpkin pecan pie, other than my own, from a recipe cobbled together from those on the pumpkin can and the bottle of corn syrup, respectively. Pumpkin and pecan together is hearty lipsmackin' goodness.
posted by divrsional at 10:59 AM on October 12, 2003

So you'll have at it with the spices. Go for it. You can't easily make a mistake.
Just do NOT mistake cumin for cinnamon. My friend's girlfriend did that one year. Simply the worst thing I can imagine tasting.
posted by mischief at 1:20 PM on October 12, 2003

Also, I meant to say, I have been meaning to try a butternut squash pie, and this is just the nudge I needed to actually do it. Thanks.
posted by Nothing at 3:42 PM on October 12, 2003

Carving pumpkins and pie-making pumpkins are very different--good pie can be made with the latter. For that matter, the dividing line between pumpkin and squash is somewhat arbitrary. In fact, my local grocery surprised me by tagging kabocha as "squash."
posted by adamrice at 5:42 PM on October 12, 2003

posted by homunculus at 8:06 PM on October 12, 2003

Great recipe fff! I agree that buttercup and butternut squashes rule. I cook squash in the oven, cut in half, wrapped in tinfoil after loading it up with some butter, salt and pepper. That butter seeps in while steaming. Mmmmmmm.

The cranberry sauce sounds great.

For all those hating recipe's or cooking, I learned about World War I and World War II helping my grandmother cook. Her personal stories. Now, when would she start talking about her life like that if we hadn't been cooking? From someone who lived in Europe through it all, it was an eye opener.

She's 101 years old and in a home now and isn't cooking, but cooking special holiday recipe's always took days and it was a great and informal way to learn about each other's lives.

Go ahead, hit the freezer section of your grocery store, it just 'aint the same.

Now, what the hell are stollens??
posted by alicesshoe at 1:36 AM on October 13, 2003

Where is this stollen recipe then? Stollen is delicious, which is more than can be said for the only pumpkin pie I've ever tried, which was so bland even my morbidly obese housemate wouldn't touch it.
posted by biffa at 3:15 AM on October 13, 2003

The second set of pies were even better, having sat in the fridge for a full day. Real whipped cream on them this time. Ooooh. Oral orgasm.

Perfect Pastry: Adapted from Canadian Living magazine, this recipe really does work, and makes for the most amazingly flakey crusts. The key is in adding the liquid: the less liquid, the more flakey/fragile/delicate the crust.

3c flour
1t salt
1/2c cold butter, cubed
1/2c lard or shortening, cubed
1 egg
2 tsp white vinegar
ice water

In food processor with chopping blade, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter and lard to fine crumb consistency with a few larger pieces: do not overprocess.

In measuring cup, beat egg to foam, add vinegar, top up with water to make 2/3c liquid.

With motor running, add about 1/3 the liquid immediately, then add just enough to have the dough start to clump together. Do not let it form a ball.

Press into 2 discs, refrigerate 30m, roll it out. Makes up to one 10" double-crust pie.

If you happen to have several pie plates, it's dead easy to pre-bake the crusts by nesting an empty plate into the crust. This keeps the crust from bubbling up too much, and also helps prevent overbaking.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:56 AM on October 13, 2003 [1 favorite]

Duh, I feel stoopid. I like Libby's Solid Pack pumpkin for pie. I like their recipe with just a bit of nutmeg as an addition.

I tried Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix ONCE. It is truly horrible. I've had variations on pumpkin pie, but never one I thought superior to the Libby's.

That being said, with some lame bought crust (Ritz), at least my pie is quick and easy. The first time I had to phone my grandma to make sure it was supposed to be so liquid. I didn't know a thing about it. To me, custard was just some guy that killed a bunch of indians.

That being said, I had wondered how one would make pie from a real pumpkin. My nose told me squash was equivalent, experience told me sweet potato pie tasted much the same (its the spice). But I'm a lazy cook and can't imagine fussing with raw pumpkin.

I tried to make pie crust. It wasn't good.

I am sooooo lame.
posted by Goofyy at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2003

The stollen recipe is still incoming...I lost the file, and I have to dig out the paper copy and retype it. It's worth it, I think.
posted by notsnot at 1:42 PM on October 14, 2003

I'll be waiting notsnot.
posted by biffa at 2:40 AM on October 15, 2003

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