Friday, October 23, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

I am blessed with a son who is obsessed with pumpkins. Seriously, he has a problem. He is a pumpkin hoarder. He can't pass a pumpkin patch without going into convulsions. He usually grows his own pumpkins, but this year was not successful. We do have several small pumpkin plants growing in bowls on our dining room table right now though, he hasn't given up. They should be ready by Christmas if they survive... which is usually when JW allows us to get rid of our pumpkins to make room for presents. He did manage to hide one in his room last year until March. See I told you, he has a problem.

So far this year, we have had 9 pumpkins in this house, 4 are currently still here and I'm sure there will be more. 2 met their fate by being carved and then rotted and 3 were cooked. I made the mistake this past weekend of suggesting we go to the Raleigh farmer's market to get some apples, forgetting completely that pumpkins would also be there...huge pumpkins, white pumpkins, tiny pumpkins, weird shaped pumpkins. JW was shaking from pure pumpkin joy. Somehow he talked us into a giant white pumpkin (probably weighs 80 pounds).

JW also loves pumpkin pie and will not hear of using canned pumpkin (something about being against the pumpkin lover's bill of rights or something). So each year we make pumpkin pie from scratch (well right up to the end it's from scratch) and here's how we do it.

First you need to use small pumpkins, also called sugar pumpkins. The smaller they are, the sweeter they are. If you use a larger pumpkin, you may want to add more sugar. These 2 pumpkins made about 5 cups of pumpkin puree, enough for 2 pies or 1 pie and 1 loaf of pumpkin bread (subject of a later post).

Cut the tops off, clean it out and chop it up. Strangely, JW is ok with this step. You wouldn't think he would be. He likes to collect the seeds with future pumpkins in mind.

Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the pieces are fork tender. I have also steamed the pumpkin with a little water in the microwave (takes too long due to too many small batches), and I have boiled it (too watery). The easiest and best results I've got is by baking it.

Now peel the pieces to just leave the good stuff.

Puree the pumpkin in a food processor. You may need to add some water if it is too dry. At this point we usually run out of time or need a break, so we put it in the refrigerator for the night and aim to start fresh the next day. I should say that this is a risky practice though, because distractions and life in general tend to get in the way and the pumpkin gets forgotten until it's too late and all that work was for nothing. This usually happens to us every year so don't feel bad if it happens to you. We understand.

Once you get your life back in order, add a 12 oz can of evaporated milk to 2 cups of the pumpkin puree.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar.

Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 eggs. Beat well with a mixer or by hand if you have some aggression to work out.

Pour into a frozen 9" deep dish pie shell (this is where the from scratch part falls apart) or make your own crust if you insist. I personally try to avoid using a rolling pin wherever possible. But that's just me. You might be completely different.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream of course.

I don't like pumpkin pie but reviews from the family were all good. This is a true labor of love for my pumpkin lovin' boy.

"Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see." ~ Linus

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