I just put my pumpkin and butternut squash in the oven to bake, signaling the beginning of preparations for the Thanksgiving meal. But not really. Those vegetables were planted last spring, tended all summer and harvested this fall. They’ve been stored in the closet of our coldest bedroom until today. Now they’ve been halved or quartered, seeds scooped out for the chickens, and are roasting in the oven at 350 for a good one and a half to two hours, until the flesh is soft enough to spoon into bowls for the pumpkin pies I’ll make on Wednesday and the squash pear soup I’ll put in the crockpot early Thanksgiving morning.
I love this meal and I do love having Thanksgiving with family and friends in our Sunflower Community Meal. But I have to admit, it can be a lot of work, especially Thanksgiving morning when we’re up before dawn to get the turkey in the oven—something I, as a vegetarian, don’t even eat!
So why do I do it? Of course, spending the day at home on the farm with people I care about is a big reason—the biggest one, I’m sure. But I have to admit, I do love the food, especially my traditional Thanksgiving recipes (some of which you can read here from last year’s Thanksgiving blog).
And I don’t make the meal by myself. Everyone who comes brings something delicious, like my brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread, one sister’s blue corn muffins and another’s gingerbread cookies, my mother’s cranberry relish and pecan pie, and our British friends’ amazing trifle.
But beyond a wonderful day with family and friends, it’s possible I host Thanksgiving because I can’t imagine pie from canned pumpkin. I’m sure it tastes just great, but I made a commitment to pie from scratch a long time ago and I can’t go back now. Just for this pie, we grow heirloom Winter Luxury pie pumpkins with sweet, thick flesh. They’re beautiful in the field, like gemstones of the autumn. Once the vines die back, we bring the pumpkins into the barn to await the end of October for our CSA members to share.
Besides the joy of growing them, I like getting pumpkins and squash out of the bedroom closet, chopping them in pieces and scooping out the seeds for the chickens. I like the way those vegetables feel in my hands, I like their fall colors, and I love how easily they go from raw to cooked. I always marvel that people long ago decided squash was something that could be eaten and even made into a pie, at one time considered more a meal than a dessert.
And now pumpkin pie marks the Thanksgiving holiday, along with other goodies. Maybe the turkey holds that spot for meat eaters, but for me, it’s the pie. I even eat it for breakfast the morning after the Thursday feast. Here’s my recipe, adapted a long time ago from the back of the Libby’s can.
Stonebridge Homemade Pumpkin Pie
A day or two before you’ll make the pies: Preheat oven to 350. Cut your pumpkin in half; scoop out the seeds and a little of the stringy pulp right under the seeds. Place cut side down on a baking sheet with edges and pour a little water into the bottom for a bit of steam. Bake for 1 ½-2 hours, until a knife inserted in the outside skin pierces quite easily, like softened butter. Cool a bit and scoop out the cooked flesh into a bowl; cover and chill until you’re ready to make the pies. If the flesh seems quite watery, you can cook it down on the stovetop in a pan until it’s firmer. It really depends on the pumpkin—which is why homemade is more work but more delicious than canned.
Old Fashioned Crust
This makes three crusts but since I can only bake two pies at a time, I freeze one-third of the dough for pie some other day. Making it in a food processor saves time but if you like, cut in the pastry with two knives.
3 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups cold butter (2 ½ sticks)
½ cup cold water
1 beaten egg
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Pulse flour and salt in the food processor until combined. Add the butter in ¼ inch slices and pulse until the size of peas.
In small bowl, combine water, egg, and vinegar. With processor running, slowly drizzle the liquid mixture through the feed tube just until the dough forms a ball; stop the machine so you don’t overprocess the dough. You may not need all the liquid before the ball forms. Divide into three equal portions and chill at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge in a covered bowl. You’ll need two of these portions for two pumpkin pies so freeze the other or make a pecan pie too.
To assemble two pies:
Roll out two crusts and place in two pie plates. Prick the bottom with a fork and crimp the edge with your left index finger between your right index and middle fingers.
Preheat oven to 425.
In food processor bowl, mix
3 cups pumpkin
1 cup turbinado or cane sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
3/8 teaspoon cloves
3/8 teaspoon allspice
1 1/3 cans evaporated milk (1/3 can is ½ cup)
Blend well. Pour half the mixture into each of the two pie crusts.
Place the pies in the oven and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cook for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean (or push it gently with your finger to feel if it’s set).
Cool well before eating. Whip some cream and serve! Each pie makes 8 large or 12 small slices.