I know that almost everyone uses pumpkin for their pies. If that is your thing, have at it. As for myself, I prefer to use old varieties of squash. Heirloom pumpkins sometimes fit the bill, but the standard Sugar Pie pumpkin doesn’t really seem to bring much to the party.
For my money, the Jumbo Pink Banana squash makes an amazing contribution to the pie. That being said, you probably aren’t going to find one unless you grow it yourself. In truth, any heirloom squash that gets described as having dense flesh and fine grain is probably going to work.
Be aware that many of the best old varieties are much larger than modern squash. This means be prepared to process the excess and either can or freeze it. I suspect you will end up using a ton of it on more pies once you get a chance to taste this recipe.
I hear some of you asking, “Can’t I just use canned pumpkin?”. Well, the answer to that is yes, but the pie won’t be nearly as good. Canned pumpkin doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor to it. Most of the time, it ends up just being there for texture and volume rather than being an active part of the flavor. Don’t believe me?
Think about your pumpkin spiced latte (or whatever other pumpkin spiced gimmick you prefer) and think about how little you miss the flavor of actual pumpkin in there. See what I mean? Alright, moving on.
- 2 eggs, plus one egg yolk (freeze the extra white for later use in divinity or meringue)
- 1/2 Cup of packed dark-brown sugar
- 1/3 Cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg (Yes, fresh ground is important. The same for the next two)
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground clove
- 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground cardamon
- 2 Cups of pureed squash or pumpkin pulp (see below)
- 1 1/2 Cups heavy cream
- 1 prepared crust (see below)
Preparing the Puree
Some people like to steam their squash, but I am a fan of the baking method. I feel that baking reduces the water content of the squash a little, concentrating the flavors and ensuring a firmer set. I also believe that the dry heat seems to caramelize some of the sugars in the pulp, enhancing the flavors. I can’t prove it outside of anecdote.
Split your squash in half, scooping out the innards. This is more than just the seeds and strings. Also draw a spoon along the inner wall, scraping away a thin layer there as well. I find that doing this reduces the stringiness that sometimes happens. If you like, save the seeds for later planting or roasting.
Depending on the size of the squash, you may have to do the next step in several rounds. My favorite squash can take as many as 4 sets (if I am doing it all at once) to bake all of the massive squash. Most can be fit on a single pan or done in two rounds. Whatever the case is, place cut-side down on a bakin sheet and add a thin layer of water.
Place in the oven and bake at 350°F for somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. When a fork passes through the squash easily, it is ready. Take it out and allow to cool, pouring off any water that might have remained behind. Once cool, scoop the flesh out of the skin and puree. Use a blender, food processor or food mill to ensure the puree is smooth. Save back what is needed for this recipe and then either freeze or can the remainder. Most recipes use 1 Cup or 2Cup measurements, so it is best to store the squash divided into those amounts.
Prepare the Crust
I have always favored homemade pie crusts and if you are willing, I have a fairly good recipe in this link. Still, I know that many people have trouble finding the time and space to prepare a crust, so I promise I won’t look down on you for just buying one in the store. This recipe doesn’t prebake the crust, so just make sure it is ready to go at the time you start mixing.
I must note here one thing. If you do not crimp the edges of your pie crust high, there will be more filling than the crust can hold. If that is the case, pour off the extra into a freezable container and save for the next time you make a pie. Thawing the excess, it can be added to the new batch and should be enough to increase the volume sufficiently for two uncrimped pies (though with slightly more crust visible than would otherwise be the case.
- Set your oven to preheat at 425°F.
- Grind any spices that need it at this time. Set them aside for just a moment.
- Break the 2 eggs and add the extra yolk into a large bowl. Beat them until they take on a slightly paler color.
- Mix in both sugars, the salt, and the spices until fully integrated.
- Add the puree and mix in completely.
- Stir in the cream, beating the entire mix until consistent.
- Pour the mix into your prepared pie shell, filling as high as you can without having it spill over when placed in the oven. If you have extra, see the notation under pie crusts above.
- Place into the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F.
- Continue to bake for about 55 minutes. (I have never found a need to put a crust protector on for this recipe, but if you have more than a little-exposed crust around the edges, add one around the halfway mark of baking)
- At the end of this time, test the center with a knife or toothpick. It should come out mostly clean though I have found that the pie cracks if baked to the point that a knife comes out completely clean.
- Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for at least two hours. This is very important, so don’t bother the pie until after the set time has passed. Don’t be shocked if it loses some of its volume. This is simply due to the leavening action from the eggs. Settling as it cools is expected.
- Top with either freshly whipped cream or store-bought. I suggest that you favor unsweetened or lightly sweetened whipped cream, so the pie isn’t lost in it. It’s your pie, though, do what you like.
Have a favorite variation of the classic pumpkin pie? Feel free to post it below. Also, let me know how you like the recipe. This is one of my all-time favorite pies.