Pumpkin Pie Season

In spite of the extended sunshine and near drought conditions we’ve been experiencing, the Saanich farmlands are dotted with orange right on time. Pumpkin season is upon us.
While canned pumpkin is an option for some, making the pie filling from a real live pumpkin is a pleasure and dead easy.
Simply cut open a smaller sized pumpkin, and scrape out the seeds – save and roast them later – and place pieces of the cut pumpkin on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees until the flesh is soft when pierced with a knife.
(Be aware that some pumpkins can yield a noticeable amount of liquid and should be drained before proceeding with the pie filling part of the recipe).
Once the cooked flesh is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin and measure out the required amount of cooked pumpkin. Transfer to a blender and puree the flesh with the required half and half to achieve a smooth texture and creamy final product.
Seeing how my pie crust recipe makes two crusts, I decided to double the pumpkin pie recipe and make two pies. Oh well!
Even so, I was left with more pie filling. So out came the custard cups and I baked them in a bain marie (water bath) at 250 degrees until they set like jello, around 45 minutes.
Once cool, I covered each with plastic wrap and refrigerated until use. Before serving, I got out my trusty blow torch and bruleed the tops with a layer of sugar. (Every cook should own a blow torch).
Breaking open the hard sugary top with a spoon is one of life’s simple and immensely satisfying pleasures.
Here is my recipe for pumpkin pie filling, based on 2.5 cups of cooked pumpkin flesh for one (prebaked) pie shell.
2 1/2 cups of cooked pumpkin flesh
3/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs
2 cups half and half or light cream
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree and half and half ¬†(you’ve pureed them together, remember?). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place the prebaked pie shell on a sheet pan. Pour in the mixture and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the mixture shakes like firm jello. Cool on a rack and serve slices with a big dollop of whipped cream.
Notes on prebaking the crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once rolled out and formed into the pie plate, refrigerate for 15 minutes. Before baking, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Line the crust with foil and weigh it down with fancy pie weights or kick it old school with dried beans or rice. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Remove the foil and pie weights – carefully – and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is a lovely shade of brown, not too dark and not too light. Remove and cool slightly before adding pie filling. Or let cool completely and reserve for later use.

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