From Pumpkin to Pie

Small Sugar Pumpkins‘Tis the season for baking pumpkin pies! Especially if, like me, you lazily store your pumpkins in the house. At room temperature, they start molding and rotting after a couple of months, so now’s a great time to cook up the August/September harvest and either bake it straight into pies or freeze the purée for later in the holiday season.

If you don’t have pumpkins from your own garden, not to fear! I’ve noticed at least one store in my area selling pie pumpkins–in fact, the very variety I grow in my backyard: Small Sugar. And at a farmers’ market, you’re bound to have some luck. Just remember to ask for pie pumpkins. The pumpkins grown for Halloween carving generally have an inferior taste and less “meat” in them.

Baking the Pumpkin

I really should have cut each of these pieces in half again; they're quite large.

I really should have cut each of these pièces in half again; they’re quite large.

The first step in making pie from pumpkins is to chop up the pumpkins and bake the pieces.

In my experience, you’ll get one pie out of every 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of whole, uncooked pumpkin you start with. I generally bake about 10 lbs. at a time. I can fit that much on two cookie sheets, and it will produce about 8 C. of purée, enough for 4 pies. If I’m not making that many pies (and, honestly, I never make that many at once), I freeze the remainder of the purée (2 C. per freezer bag) for the future.

To prepare your pumpkins, cut them in quarters and remove the stem. Scoop all the seeds out and reserve for roasting. (For roasting instructions, see my post Nature’s Potato Chip.) Remove any large clumps of stringy material, but don’t worry about getting it all. It will bake down and not harm the finished product. Now hack the pumpkin into 4″ pieces.

Place the pieces rind-side-down on a cookie sheet and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 325°F until very soft. Allow about 2 hours for this. The pumpkin flesh should have taken on a darker shade and some moisture be visible on its surface. The softer the pumpkin, the easier it will be to purée.

Pie CrustPreparing the Crust

While the pumpkin is baking, you might want to prepare your pie crust. A simple recipe is available in my post Pie Crust: No Rolling Required. The crust does not need to be prebaked for pumpkin pie, and doing so may cause it to burn later.

Puréeing the Pumpkin

Once the pumpkin has baked to a very soft consistency, you can scrape it off the rind and purée it. I use a food mill, but a food processor is fine, too (just noisy!). Reserve 2 C. of purée for each pie. Like I said, I freeze the extra, putting 2 C. in each freezer bag.

Preparing the Filling

In a mixing bowl, whisk 2 eggs thoroughly. Add the following ingredients:

  • 2 C. puréed pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 C. light cream or evaporated milk (or use half milk and half heavy cream)
  • 1/2 C. white sugar
  • 1/3 C. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Pumpkin PieThoroughly whisk all of these ingredients together. The mixture will appear quite soupy, but don’t worry, it will set up like gelatin once it’s baking. It will, however, only barely fit in your pie crust, so before pouring it in, place your pie crust on a cookie sheet that will catch any spills. Then slowly pour in your filling. And then carefully transfer the cookie sheet and pie to the oven.

Bake at 375°F for 35-45 minutes, if ingredients are warm or at room temperature. If you’ve chilled your pumpkin or your pie crust, however, the baking will take considerably longer. You’ll know the pie is done when the center seems set but is still quivery like gelatin.

Cool before serving.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on homemade whipped cream!

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