The Art of Making Pumpkin Pie
Nothing evokes autumn like the taste of pumpkin. Now that the big orange gourds are piling up at the markets, it’s time to indulge. A slice of pumpkin pie has about 300 calories, twice your daily RDA of vitamin A, about 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. It’s adaptable to different dietary restrictions, too. Substitute soy or almond milk for dairy milk if you are lactose intolerant; skip the crust if you’re on a gluten-free or low-fat diet; sweeten it almost any way you like.
It’s an easy, forgiving recipe, too, that can be broken down this way and altered as you please.
- 2 cups of pumpkin or 1 15-oz. can
- 2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
- 1 can evaporated milk, or 2 cups of scalded milk
- ¾ cup of sugar, honey or agave nectar; or 2/3 cup Splenda.
- 1 portion spice mix
- 1 crust – or no crust at all!
Preparing Fresh Pumpkin:
Canned pumpkin is easy and convenient; but preparing it with fresh pumpkin is simple and cost-effective, too. And no, it’s not hard. Just wash and cut a small sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and fibers.
Place the halves, cut side down, on a cookie sheet with sides. Add about a half-inch of water. Bake at 300° F for 1 hour or until a fork pierces it easily. You can also cook 5-8 hours on Low in a slow cooker with 1” water. Cool. The pulp will scrape off easily. Process finely in a food processor and store in the refrigerator.
Tip: When you use fresh pumpkin, strain it through cheesecloth or multiple paper towels over a colander to get the excess moisture out. It will bake faster.
Making it Creamy
As your fresh pumpkin is baking, take a few minutes to make scalded milk. It’s fresher tasting and cheaper than canned evaporated milk. Pour two cups of whole milk in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it starts steaming and frothing along the edges. The downside? You need to stir it constantly to prevent burning. Once it’s cool you can store it for days in the fridge.
Sweeten it Up
Most recipes call for ¾ cup of sweetener. White sugar is fool-proof, as it prevents excessive browning. Tradition calls for brown sugar. You can also use agave nectar or honey, or a combination.
Everyone has a favorite way to spice a pie. The most popular is 1 tsp salt, ½ to 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg or allspice, ½ tsp ginger and ¼ tsp ground cloves. Mix these together in individual batches and store them in snack-sized plastic bags for anytime pies without all the measuring. Pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice has a slightly different flavor but it’s still very good and very simple to use.
Tip: Always add spices before milk to prevent clumping.
- Whisk 2 eggs or pour ½-cup egg substitute in a large bowl and add ¾ cups sugar. Mix well. Add spice mixture to 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree or 2 cups fresh, mashed pumpkin. Add to egg and sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- Slowly add 1 12-oz can evaporated milk or 2 cups scalded milk, cooled. Scrape down sides to blend all ingredients.
- Pour into prepared pie shell or graham cracker crust, or spoon into a greased 8” baking pan.
- Bake at 375° F for 15 minutes followed by 350° F for 45 minutes. Be patient with baking times. A clean knife or toothpick inserted in the center will tell you when it’s done.
It’s easy to whip up pumpkin pie anytime. Just keep cans of evaporated milk and pumpkin on hand, or store scalded milk and pumpkin puree in the right portions. Keep small jars of prepared spice mix on hand or use 1-1/2 tbsp of commercial pumpkin pie spice. You can use a mixer, a blender, or a wooden spoon to mix it up. Enjoy the taste of fall!