Fresh pumpkin for pie
- Butters Nov 17, 2004 01:59 PM
Is it really worth it to cook a fresh pumpkin for a pumpkin pie? I always used a can of Libby's and made a great pie.
I bought a pie pumpkin at the farmer's market out of a misplaced feeling of nostalgia...halved, roasted, and pureed it and realized it was way too watery. I combed through my back issues of CI thinking I'd seen something about cooking or perhaps even using paper towels to rid the squash of excess H2O but couldn't find anything. I cooked the puree in a saucepan with the spices until it looked like what comes out of the Libby's can, then followed my usual recipie. I can't say it was really all that much work, but it tasted almost the same as the canned. If canned pumpkin was full of preservatives or other junk I would use fresh again, but I don't think that is the case.
The usual method to getting rid of the excess liquid is to drain it overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander. Fresh pumpkin is very nice, and I made puree from five this fall for freezing. That said, fresh pumpkin takes a lot of work, and canned pumpkin is a good product, one of the few things that come in a can that deserve a spot in most good cooks' kitchens. (Off-topic, but I would add canned chipotle peppers, good quality canned tomatoes, Goya canned chickpeas, and canned coconut milk as a few of the others, at least the ones you would find in this cook's kitchen.)
The thing to remember when cooking w/fresh pumpkin is not to use the traditional halloween pumpkin. You need to use a cheese pumpkin or a sugar pumpkin. Jack O'latern pumpkins are too watery to be used in cooking. There's an article in the NY Times today that talks about this...it also gives a recipe for a squash pie that looks intriging...
I had one of the best pumpkin pies ever made with a French pumpkin - aka - cinderella pumpkin. our friend who is an accomplished baker said that these pumpkins really make a difference. As good as the pie was, I'm going to give it a try. Her recipe was sort of custardy: contains evaporated milk and eggs.
The pumpkins used for canned pumpkin are a different variety than are generally shown in farmers markets and are closer to squash in character. The field pumpkins, often Howden or Connecticult Field variety or derivatives thereof, used for ornamental purposes are too stringy and watery for pies. Sugar pumpkins were often used for pies but aren't the greatest for flavor even though they are much better than field pumpkins. Hubbard squash makes a better "pumpkin" pie or pudding than any round orange pumpkin.
I think it is worth it, at least to try it out. The biggest pain for me is the peeling, as throwing it in the oven and letting it roast a while is certainly easy enough. The flavor of the pumpkin is much lighter and "fresher" than when I use canned pumpkin, and the color is much lighter as well. I really like the difference. Plus I like having pumpkins around in the fall and then you have something to do with them when you're ready.
Try putting 1/3 to 1/2 of the puree amount in as butternut.
Butternut is sweeter then most pumpkins and, once the spices are in, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish the difference, because a lot of what people's taste memory of pumpkin revolves around is actually the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, mace mixtures that go in for seasoning.
After the first time using butternut squash, I have vowed to never return to pumpkin. The "meal" of it is finer, it's a much more pleasant taste, and it's SO much easier to work with. I throw it in the oven and roast until it's done, when the skin and squash underneath "gives". Cool slightly, cut in half, scoop out the cooked squash, and put it in the food processor to puree, then freeze it in ice cube trays, pop out and keep in freezer bags. I got a HUGE butternut squash this year for very little money, and been using that squash since, for pie, soup, in breakfast oatmeal, in an orzo risotto....it's fantastic, cheap, and VERY tasty.
No need to peel the pumpkin. Take a small pie pumpkin and cut in 1/2 (or use 1/2 a "cheese" pumkin and cut in 1/2 again), place innard side down on baking sheet and bake. When it's soft (you can poke a fork in w/o resistance, remove, let cool, and simply scoop out seeds and stringy part. Then you can either pull away the peel, or scoop out w/ a spoon.
I made a great pumpkin pie with a sugar pie pumpkin. Way better than the can, and actually less moist (I roasted it). Yum. Am planning a repeat for Thanksgiving...
There are a lot of differing ways to roast the pumpkin.
Just looking through about 30 of my cookbooks, I found suggestions that ranged wildly
peeled in advance
I can tell you that I thought this over and in the end I did the following.
1. I knocked the stems off
2. I washed the pumpkins
3. I cut them vertically top to bottom in half
4. I lined two sheet pans with foil and put them hole side down into a 325degree oven and roasted them for around 2 hours. Every 30min I would roate them 180deg and move the top to the bottom rack and vice versa.
5. I then pulled them out when they were very soft and let them rest until they were somewhat cool.
6. I then pureed them in a food processor and passed the resulting puree through a sieve to remove any stringy bits or skin that might have made it through the process.
result: it's silky smooth from passing through the sieve. It's almost like pudding and was delicious to just eat spoonfuls of pure pumpkin flavor. Do the low heat and extended face down roasting time, they dried out fairly well, and the puree is not particularly moist.
If you were hell bent on even less moisture, you could put cheesecloth in a sieve and let it drain overnight in the fridge. I don't think it's necessary, however.
I think if you try to rush the roast for the puree, that you will darken the pumpkins, and they will take on a roasted flavor that I personally didn't want in my puree. The act of baking the pumpkin pie will further roast and darken it for that flavor in my opinion.
I plan to make a pumpkin bread pudding with brown sugar ice creaming as an alternative this year as well as pumpkin cookies and who knows what else. (i ended up with a gallon of pumpkin puree).
My family would not let me go back to canned pumpkin. It is not so much the taste as the texture. The fresh is much lighter -- not in color, but in actual weight. It also has a different texture, being not so smooth. I use pie pumpkins and have not found them too watery. I rinse it off, cut off the stem, and microwave the whole thing. It is then easy to get the flesh out and into the food processor. If I have more than I want, I freeze the extra.