Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pumpkin Pie From Scratch

My Mom never made pumpkin pie from scratch; well, I believe that's true because when I was growing up, she used a lot of canned and packaged foods, and so pumpkin pie was always made with canned pumpkin pie filling. Empty the can into a packaged pie crust, bake, and serve with Cool Whip.

As I got older and was occasionally cooking the new way - hippie-style (you know, substituting carob for chocolate, substituting chicory for coffee, making my own yeast bread), I still used a lot of canned fruits and vegetables. So naturally, my version of making a pumpkin pie from scratch was using canned pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling. At least you added evaporated milk, eggs, and spices to the canned pumpkin before you put it in a pie shell. But it did not occur to me (yet) to buy an actual pumpkin and make the pie from that.

We moved to southeast Kansas when our daughter was little. We moved to a very small town with a single large company that had a "no spouse rule" - if one spouse worked there, the other could not. So, I found myself without a job, lots of play time with my daughter, lots of women's charity organizations, lots of ladies' lunches, and no place to shop. This was before the Internet and the Web, so some of my attention was diverted to cooking. To add a little extra challenge, the house we rented for the last six months we lived there had no stove/oven. I had quite a few electric appliances, such as slow cookers, electric skillets, electric fondue pots, hot pots, and a big Dutch oven. With some planning, I found I could cook almost anything in my stove-less kitchen. One big challenge was baking cookies - I could bake only 4 at a time, so our daughter enjoyed Oreos and Girl Scout cookies for that time period.

One day, I got the urge to try my hand at baking a pumpkin pie from scratch - no canned pumpkin. All recipes I found said "cook 6 cups pumpkin until tender . . ." but that was the extent of information I found. So I brought a nice big pumpkin home from the grocery store, cut off the top, and scooped out the seeds and pulp from the inside - and proceeded to cook those in the Dutch oven. And I cooked and stirred and stirred and cooked, but to no avail. The seeds and pulp never changed form and looked nothing like the canned pumpkin I was used to. I got out my potato masher and tried to mash it up, but that didn't work either. I got out my mixer and that didn't produce a nice smooth pumpkin puree. As a side note, I didn't cook or eat squash, so had no idea that one cooked the meat of the vegetable, not the insides. If I had pictured a cantaloupe where one eats the meat but not the seeds, I would have figured it out, but I didn't. I just kept cooking and mashing.

Luckily, my neighbor came over; she was an older woman who was an excellent cook. After she finished laughing at my disaster, she was kind enough to show me what I was doing wrong. She helped me cut up the meat of the pumpkin, cook it, and puree it and together we made a wonderful pumpkin pie - from scratch!

Today, with the Internet, the Web, and YouTube - you can see actual demonstrations of these types of things. And in the future, who knows? Maybe someone will appear holographically in your kitchen and help out. I can't wait. I could always use some instruction - and help with the dishes!

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