Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Extraordinaire

In the fall of 2011 I did a pumpkin taste testing contest between New England Sugar Pie pumpkins and Rouge vif Detampes pumpkins. I tried  a new way of cooking them, leaving them whole versus cutting them up to cook. Each method of cooking has its advantages but in the end, I decided that the New England Sugar Pie pumpkin variety was the winner. I changed my mind. A woman can do that don't you think?
Well, new evidence has come to light in the case and it has been decided, by me, that it was shear ignorance on my part that lowered the Rouge vif Detampes pumpkin to excellent animal fodder, though it is that and much more. It's is that the two pumpkins are so different from each other in flavor and texture. As a side note, the seeds of a pumpkin make great chicken wormer
As I skimmed the blog I'd written then, I can't believe I even said that I liked the New England Sugar Pie over the Rouge vif Detampes, but I did. Since then I've had a freezer teaming with both kinds of pumpkin and I've learned a thing or too. The New England Sugar Pie is a small pumpkin with traditional earthy pumpkin flavor and a creamy texture. 

The Rouge vif Detampes or Cinderella pumpkin, which inspired the carriage in the Walt Disney movie Cinderella, is very light, sweet tasting with a stringy texture.

The first time around I was dealing with the pumpkin's stringiness and excess amount of liquid. I used the blender to smooth the stringiness and drained the pumpkin to drain off part of the liquid. Much of the flavor though, I learned from Cooks magazine, is bound up in the liquid so that is the reason why  the dishes cooked with it seemed a bit weak in flavor.

What's a girl to do? Well, I took a tip from the Cook's magazine and then wondered off into my own pasture. You see they tried to tell me that pumpkin in a can wasn't any different tasting than cooking fresh pumpkins and making pie so don't go to the effort of doing it yourself.

I'm here to tell you that isn't true. UNLESS, you use those nasty pumpkins that are in the store meant for jack-o-latterns. So don't be fooled by the sign that says pumpkins for pies. Know your varieties and make sure the sign states what kind of pumpkin they are because pumpkins are not created equal. I've been growing pumpkins for years and was very disappointed. I grew pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns and made pies with them and I grew pumpkins that the catalogue said were for pies but they all tasted bad and in disgust, I quit raising pie pumpkins.

Then I began using only organic and heirloom seeds and since I was looking in a new direction, I happened upon an article about all kinds of heirloom pumpkins. They were all shapes and sizes and some even had wart like growths. The writer claimed they each had a different flavor and my interest was peeked. I'd noticed that heirloom seeds grew to more flavorful vegetables also.

By the time I ordered, many of the heirloom varieties were gone and in the narrower selection choices, I ended up with New England Sugar Pie, Long Pie, and Rouge vif Detampes. I haven't yet grown Long Pie but I should this next summer. I did put in the Rouge vif Detampes both summers. With lots and lots of pumpkin puree in the freezer, I figured I'd feed the Rouge vif Detampes to the chickens but the drought hit all squashes hard and I only had two pumpkins for my efforts. 
Making Thanksgiving pie this year, I learned a thing or two. I had put the Rouge vif Detampes in the blender before freezing, breaking up the stringiness. The problem with freezing is it brings out the liquids. Something it has a great deal of anyway. I strained the pumpkin puree after thawing. 
The liquid I put into a pot and boiled it, reducing the amount of liquid and concentrating the pumpkin flavor.

Then I added the pumpkin puree and heated it. Slowly I added sugar to taste, along with the spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, also to taste. It was amazing but I ended up adding just a little over half of the sugar called for in my traditional recipe.  
I then added my eggs, two because I was making two pies, and some heavily creamed fresh goat's milk. Just enough to obtain the right consistency.
When the mixture had cooked a while, about ten minutes, getting really hot and mud pot like. You know, plop, plop as the bubbles pop but before it begins to burn.
Hot filling allows the pie to cook more quickly and not absorb so much into the crust. The crust needed some help. I tried a butter based one instead of a lard or shortening based one and it was a bit hard. Maybe I worked it a bit too much.
Then I cooked the pie at 400 Fahrenheit for ten minutes as Cook's magazine recommended to keep the pumpkin from curdling and turned it down to 300 for a while until just about done. Needing to do chores, I turned off the oven, leaving the pies inside, and left. When I returned they were done.
We had Thanksgiving at Kirk's brothers and there was a pie there with store canned pumpkin filling. The taste wasn't even on the same planet. So Cook's magazine, you need to try heirloom pumpkins. Then again, does the general public have access to such wonderful delights? What a blessing to grow your own. I can't wait to try a new variety of pumpkins this summer.

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