Thursday, November 7, 2013

November 7, 2013: The Great Canadian Pumpkin Harvest

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us.

We are so lucky to live in a country that experiences all four seasons. We see the stillness and feel the cold of the ground in winter, watching the bare trees bear the burden of snow to prepare for the burden of new growth. We smell the replenishing earth and watch the buds and flowers sprout off of trees and bushes in the spring. We enjoy late-night noshing and long, evening strolls in the warmth of summer nights. But it’s fall where we truly appreciate the fine bounty that this country brings.
As I’ve mentioned before, I live in the Ontario Green Belt. That means we have pumpkin patches and apple orchards. Our farms provide us with plenty of fall and winter crop vegetables and fruits to tide us over until the return of the spring.
Everyone I know has their own recipe for apple pie, whether or not they make it themselves. There’s a debate as to which apples are best to use for pie – Macs, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Red Prince, Gala, Fuji – the only thing we all agree on is not to use Delicious apples. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of apple pie, probably for that very reason – I haven’t found the perfect apple to make the perfect pie yet. Plus, as I discussed in the jam blog, I am not a huge fan of cooked fruit.
But there is one pie I have a terrible weakness for, and that is pumpkin pie. If I was left on a desert island, that island better have more pumpkins than a Canadian farm at Halloween.


A pumpkin is a perfect fruit, and the amount we waste in this country for Halloween decorations is frightening. As you probably know, the smaller the pumpkin, the sweeter the flesh; hence the reason why we carve large pumpkins and use baby ones for pies. By the way, my heart dies a little every time I see a baby pumpkin carved on a stoop at Halloween.
Pumpkin makes excellent soup (and the pumpkin itself makes a perfect tureen for serving the soup). We have recipes for curried pumpkin in Trinidad, even though the type of squash itself is slightly different from the orange kind (though it can be done with a bit of spicing up and a little extra salt with a pie pumpkin).
My mother knew I loved pumpkin pie, and she liked it as well. God bless her for being born during the end of a war, when canned food was praised to be better for you than real food. So she would buy those frozen Mrs. Smiths pies and bake them for me, claiming they were as good as a fresh pumpkin pie.
They weren’t.
I had many a fresh pumpkin pie over the years, but it wasn’t until my late husband, who was a chef and a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School, made me his version of pumpkin pie that I truly appreciated what it takes to make an honest-to-goodness mouth-watering pie.
So I’ll share his recipe here so you can create your own harvest pumpkin memories.  This will make one 10” deep dish pie. Also, it’s best to use a blind-baked shortcrust, though a blind-baked flaky pie crust can also do in a pinch. You just have to account for the extra leaking butter or fat.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (from 1 pie-sized pumpkin, roasted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped, seeds only
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. each cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves
Pinch salt
Pinch white pepper
4 eggs
1 ½ cups 35% cream
¼ cup bourbon, dark rum, or good-quality rye (if you want to be ultra-Canadian)

First things first – cut your pie pumpkin in half, scoop out and save the seeds for roasting for snacks (!!) and roast the pumpkin in a 350F oven for about an hour. Test it with a wooden skewer; if it goes in easily and the pumpkin flesh looks caramelized (see photo), take it out and let the pumpkin cool until you can easily handle it. Scoop the flesh from the skin, throw it in the food processor and puree it until it is smooth like baby food. Raise your oven to 375F.
Put 2 cups of the pumpkin flesh in a large metallic or glass bowl, add all of the ingredients listed above into the bowl, and whisk together until smooth.
Pour the filling into the blind-baked shell and bake for at least 30 min before opening the oven to check. When the sides of the filling are firm, the pie is done. The centre may be a little jiggly. You may have to put a ring of foil around the top of the crust to keep it from getting too dark, depending on how thick your shell was made.

1 comment:

  1. For a while we lived near Whitby Ontario. I remember driving north to a farm stand where they had a corn maze and a pumpkin patch and the best butter tarts in the world in my humble opinion.