I recently spent five days at Slow Food International’s biannual conference in Torino (Turin), Italy.
Christened Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto, the conference brought together people from more than 150 countries to talk about “good, clean, fair food,” including hundreds of artisan food and beverage producers.
My time at the conference increased my desire to make more food from scratch and, simultaneously, stretch my culinary wings.
With Thanksgiving approaching and remembering my husband’s interest in making pumpkin puree from scratch, I decided to go one step further. I would make a pumpkin pie that also included homemade crust.
I know, I know, making a crust isn’t such a big deal. But I had long before succumbed to the ease of rolling out a premade crust for sweet or savory pies, so this was a leap for me.
First I needed to buy pie pumpkins rather than the jack-o’-lantern variety. I found two “cute” little specimens and headed home. A quick Internet search yielded easy instructions for baking the pumpkins. Forty-five minutes later they emerged, flesh soft and steaming, and slightly blackened around the edges.
The next thing I needed was an easy pie crust recipe and a can of shortening, for which I made a quick grocery store run. I pulled out an old faithful cookbook and found a recipe that looked quite doable.
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the dough came together and how easily it flattened into a wide circle atop a generous dusting of flour strewn across my countertop. I took a deep breath before rolling the dough circle onto the rolling pin and gently transferred it to a waiting pie plate, crimping the edges with my fingers.
I also found a straightforward filling recipe in the same cookbook. Once the pumpkin flesh had completely cooled I threw it into my food processor along with evaporated milk, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
When the ingredients became almost liquid, I wondered if the filling would bake to the same consistency as filling made with canned pumpkin.
It didn’t, but that was OK. After the baked pie cooled enough to eat, we topped large slices with freshly whipped cream and dug in. The crust was light and flaky as hoped.
But the filling was a revelation, with less intense pumpkin flavor and a slightly “looser” consistency than the results I’d had with canned pumpkin.
All in all, this was quite a pleasant experiment that I’ll undoubtedly repeat. Will I ever use premade pie crust again? Maybe, but it’s less likely now that I know how easy and tasty the homemade version can be.
And pumpkin puree? When pumpkins are in season, I know exactly which puree I will choose.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.