Tag Archives: pumpkin pie

The Pumpkin’s in the Oven–Let Thanksgiving Begin!

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.

Pumpkin Filling:
In food processor bowl, mix
3 eggs
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.


Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

Almost Thanksgiving

Yesterday was a quiet Sunday so I got out my cache of Thanksgiving recipes to plan the week’s preparations for the big meal on Thursday. Most of what we cook comes from the farm, some down in the root cellar waiting–butternut squash and shallots for soup, pumpkin for pies, carnival squash for roasting—and the rest—carrots, turnips, leeks–waiting in the field for digging today or tomorrow.

My job today is to make gluten-free cornbread so that it’ll be stale for the stuffing on Thursday, joined by chopped hazelnuts, sliced leeks, grated carrot, rosemary, thyme, and veggie broth. I’m making the stuffing gluten-free this year for my daughter and sister but I think everyone will enjoy it and not even know it’s gluten-free.

The other job for the day is getting out the vintage “Homestead” dishes we use for Thanksgiving. They’re the “everyday” dishes my parents got when they married and have been passed on to me for this meal. I’ve got 18 place settings, which is a good thing because we have almost that many people coming for dinner.

Tonight I’ll cook the butternut squash and pumpkins in halves on a baking sheet with a little water for steaming until they’re soft and then I’ll scoop them out for the soup and pie.

Tomorrow I’ll set the dishes on the long table in our farm’s Sunflower Community Room and decorate with small squash and pumpkins from the field.

Wednesday I’ll make the pies with the pumpkin I’ve cooked, as well as make the spice butter for the outside of the turkey and to pour over the carnival squash, an acorn variety that I slice in wedges and bake covered with foil with a little broth in the bottom of the dish in a second oven an hour and a half at 375 before the turkey’s done.

I’m a vegetarian, but I decided years ago that I like Thanksgiving at home so much, I’ll make the turkey for everyone else. We buy a huge one from our friend’s natural food store, so big that we have to get up while it’s still dark to get it into the oven. Every year I complain to John, “Why is the vegetarian making the turkey?” but I have to admit, I do eat the gravy—flavored with our leeks and rosemary—on my mashed potatoes.

Here’s the recipe for the Spice Butter:

1 stick of softened butter

2 tsp coarse salt (smoked is good)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cumin powder

1 clove minced garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg

2 Tbl honey

Leave it out the night before so it’s soft for spreading on the turkey, then melt the rest for drizzling over the squash slices.

Wednesday night I mince and sauté the shallots for the soup and also slice the leeks and grate the carrot for stuffing. I mix up all the dry stuffing ingredients in a huge crockery bowl so it’s handy in the morning. All I have to do then is add broth to the portion that will go inside the bird. We put leeks and rosemary in the bottom of the roasting pan with the turkey on top, and pour quite a bit of broth in the bottom. We coat the bird with olive oil and then rub on the spice butter, stick it in the oven, and go back to bed for an hour or so.

Up again when it’s light, we peel potatoes to boil for mashing, slice the squash for one dish and carrots and parsnips for another, douse the turkey with broth a few more times, get out the serving bowls, and make the soup.

I made this soup for the first time last year and it’s a great way to sit down at the table before we start passing the other dishes, plus I can put it in my biggest crockpot and forget about it while I tend to other things. My sister brings gluten-free, blue cornmeal mini-muffins to accompany the soup and it’s just right for a first course.

Here’s the recipe for Squash Pear Soup:

5 cups cooked butternut squash (3-4 pounds of butternut squash (1 large or 2 medium), already halved, de-seeded; cook for an hour and a half or so at 350 and scoop out of the skin)

4-5 minced shallots, sautéed in a little olive oil until golden

6 ripe pears, stem and core removed

2 tsp ground ginger

3 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1-2 tsp ground thyme

1/16 tsp cayenne powder

Puree all ingredients in a food processor and place in 6-qt crockpot. Add 1 ½ quarts (6 cups) vegetable broth and stir until smooth.

Heat for 2 hours on high setting.

At the same time I make the soup, I warm ½ gallon of cider with four cups of strong chai tea in a smaller crockpot to serve with my brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread while we’re cooking. This year we’ll spread the bread with yummy pumpkin butter that a subscriber gave us at the end of the season—a double pumpkin treat while we wait for everything else to cook.

It’s always a little hectic getting it all to the table but everyone helps. Our oldest daughter and son-in-law whip the potatoes with half-and-half and butter; John carves the turkey; my mom makes the gravy after the bird comes out of the pan; my sisters get the stuffing and veggies out of the oven; friends put the dishes they’ve brought on the table; and someone forgets that the rolls are in the oven until we’re all seated at the table and we have to run back for them.

The food’s ready, the table’s lovely with candlelight, and we’re all here, grateful for another year together. But before we eat, we recite a verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson that captures all that we have to be thankful for:

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food

For love and friends,

For everything [that] goodness sends.

We are thankful.


Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture