Harvest Treats: Pumpkin Pie and Muffins
It all started when my friend (I'll call her Julie) brought me a box of fall goodies from the end-of-the-season sale at the produce stand where she worked last year. Among the jars of salad dressings, the scrumptious fresh potatoes, the bags of shelled nuts, and the fresh onions, were two unusual-looking pumpkins.
Julie kept one for herself and gave me the biggest one. "I know this pumpkin looks funny," she gushed, "but it makes the best pie, ever!" I decided to believe my friend as I thanked her profusely for her generosity. The gift of a food box is the most thoughtful gesture in the world.
I had never seen a Fairytale pumpkin before. Julie instructed me to roast the pumpkin in my oven and use it for pies. So I did.
To roast, first cut the pumpkin in half, any which way you want to. For a large pumpkin, you can quarter it. Scoop out the seeds and the very stringy parts and reserve the seeds to roast or to dry. Place the pumpkin halves with their cut sides down in a shallow baking dish or on a cookie sheet (with raised edges) and cover with a loose tent of foil. Then bake in the oven at 350º F for 40–50 minutes or so until tender.
Some folks add a little water, but that is not necessary if the pumpkin is small and covered. Check 10 to 15 minutes before the time is up in case the pumpkin bakes fast. It should be tender when pierced through the skin with a fork. If the pumpkin halves are very large, cook for a longer period of time and check at 20-minute intervals. The pumpkin will be soft when done. Large halves can take two hours or more, so ¼" of water added to the baking dish is fine in that case.
I cannot describe to you how sweet and rich this pumpkin tastes. Even the raw flesh of a Fairytale pumpkin leaves me smacking my lips, unwilling to stop shoveling it in. Then after it is baked, it's almost like pudding or applesauce, especially when puréed. (Any small food grinder can be put to use for this purpose.) The outstanding taste of the Fairytale pumpkin is worth the extra step of pulverizing any strings that remain after roasting. If you do not have a food processor, not to worry! This pumpkin is so tender that it can be mashed by hand with a potato masher and still come out shining!
This year, I went in search of my own Fairytale pumpkin and bought a hoss. It weighed 25 pounds. I took it home to admire and to take photos of it before finally diving in a few weeks later to bake it for further use in my kitchen.
My family particularly enjoys pumpkin pie, year-round. I have begun a habit of adapting my pie recipes to make them as healthy as I can while still maintaining taste. What this means is that my pie crusts are usually half whole wheat flour and half unbleached white flour, perhaps with some soy flour mixed in. My fillings use reduced sugar or alternative sweeteners or a combination. My fats include a variety that can be exchanged according to dietary restrictions or preferences.
The following pumpkin pie recipe can be made with any pie-type pumpkin (pre-cooked) or with canned pumpkin:
Pumpkin Pie (makes two 9" pies)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons chilled butter
- 7 tablespoons lard, shortening, or margarine
- 3–4 tablespoons cold water
Mix the dry ingredients well. Add the fat in small chunks. Using two forks or a pastry blender, work the butter, margarine, shortening, and/or lard into the flour mixture until it looks like a bowlful of small peas and crumbs. Add the cold water in teaspoonfuls at a time, dropping it here and there into the mixture and tossing the crumbs with a fork. Continue until the pastry seems moist and holds together without being soggy.
Divide into two dough balls of equal size. Wrap one ball in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator while rolling out the first crust. To do this, place a pastry cloth onto your countertop and generously sprinkle flour evenly over the cloth. (If you do not have a pastry cloth, an old pillowcase is excellent for the job.) With floured hands, pat the first dough ball into an even circle on the pastry cloth. Flour a rolling pin, and roll out the pie crust slightly larger than the pie pan you will use. Place the crust into the pan. (One method is to fold the crust in half first, lift, and place.) Repeat all of the above for the second crust.
- 32 ounces cooked pumpkin or canned pumpkin (4 cups)
- 2–12-ounce cans evaporated milk
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups Splenda, other alternative sweetener, sugar, or a combination thereof
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon each of ginger, cloves, and nutmeg
In a large mixing bowl, mix all filling ingredients with an electric mixer. Pour into the pie crusts, dividing evenly. Cover the edges of each pie with crimped pieces of foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake at 425º F for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350º F for 45 more minutes. Remove the foil shields from the edges of the baking pies during the last 15 minutes of baking. When finished, remove the pies from the oven and cool. Then cover and refrigerate. (Keep in mind that a pie made from homemade baked pumpkin purée is more textured/pebbly than a pie made from canned pumpkin or bought from a grocery store—it may take an adjustment period for some folks to appreciate.) Tell them how good it is for them to eat fresh pumpkin!
Pumpkin Muffins (makes 18 medium)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- ½ cup soy flour
- 1¼ cup alternative sweetener or sugar
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or 3 teaspoons any combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cake spice)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- I cup fresh-cooked or canned pumpkin
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups peeled, finely chopped apples
- Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine the eggs, pumpkin, and oil, mixing well. Add this wet mixture to the dry mixture; stir just until moistened. Stir in the finely chopped apples. Spoon the batter into 18 greased or paper-lined medium muffin tins, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle Streusel topping over the batter in each cup. Bake in a 350º oven for 35–40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. If using Splenda, check for doneness ten minutes ahead of time.
Streusel Topping for Muffins
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sweetener (Splenda, sugar)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons butter
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle crumbs over each muffin before baking.
As you can see, these muffins are textured and believe me, they sure are tasty! They won't last long at all, so be prepared to make them again! It would be wise to store them in the refrigerator after a day (that is, if any are still left), since they are made from fresh pumpkin purée and apples.
Extra pre-cooked pumpkin can be stored in the freezer for use at a later time. It will last about five days if refrigerated.
For more information about alternative or artificial sweeteners: