Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pumpkin puree, seeds, and pie

Our local paper had an article last week mentioning a shortage of canned pumpkin due to poor crop performance at the Libby farms, and they weren't lying. My local grocery store had nary a can of the delicious, multi-purpose, and ubiquitously autumnal orange glop.

My husband had requested a full turkey dinner for last weekend, complete with pumpkin pie, so I decided to do a fully scratch version, which was a first for me. It was easier than I anticipated, yet time consuming. However, the fantastic fresh taste of the resulting pie was worth it.

Various websites suggested one 6" pie pumpkin for a single 9" pie, but since I was putting in this extra effort, I decided to make extra and freeze it. I purchased two pie pumpkins, weighing in at just over 7 pounds total. I removed the stems and blossom ends, cut them in half, and scooped out the seeds and stringy parts.

The photographer of this picture is my almost 3 year old assistant. Note her unique perspective.

I then placed the halves cut side down on a baking sheet. There is no seasoning or oil.

NOTE: One set of online instructions recommended lining the baking sheet with parchment paper. I didn't have any, so I omitted this step. However, there was a decent quantity of sticky brown goo that had to be soaked off after baking, so next time, I'll line with parchment or a Silpat.

I baked the pumpkins at 350ยบ for about an hour and 15 minutes, until they were easily pierced with a paring knife. After a brief rest out of the oven, the skins were very easily peeled off.

I scooped up the pumpkin flesh and crammed it into my food processor. After a couple of minutes and several pauses to stir, the pumpkins were reduced to a smooth puree. As you can see, I've maxed out the capacity!

Cans of Libby brand pumpkin are 15 ounces each, so I decided to package my puree similarly. I had some reusable plastic containers from takeout that worked perfectly. Using my digital kitchen scale, I measured out just under a pound of puree for each, winding up with 4 containers.

My puree came out the right consistency, but if your batch winds up watery, Martha Stewart recommends putting the puree into a cheesecloth lined colander over a bowl in the fridge overnight. Discard the liquid in the bowl.

Once I had my puree ready, it was time to make pie. I used the tried and true recipe from the canned pumpkin label, available here. My go-to recipe for pie crust is always that of Alton Brown.

I was a little overzealous with whisking in the evaporated milk, and therefore the pie wound up with some unsightly brown bubbles in the center. I peeled them off. Unfortunately, there were cracks in the center after the custard cooled, but it didn't stop us from eating it! :D

Add a little (or a lot) sweetened whipped cream (chill your beaters and a glass bowl before whipping- makes it go much faster) and voila! Delicious fall dessert, all the way from scratch.

We can't forget the lowly pumpkin seeds! After removing them from the pumpkins, I cleaned off all of the stringy parts, rinsed them, and soaked them in a brine. Later, I drained off the brine, coated the seeds in a mixture of New Mexico chile powder and kosher salt, and baked them on a sheet until toasty and golden brown. Yum!