Monday, November 23, 2009

Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie!

I enjoy pumpkin pie enough to eat it just about all year, but somehow it doesn’t taste quite right until at least mid-October. Then, one can come up with an excuse to make it just about any week (although I don’t, because there are so many other recipes to try and only so many calories I can handle!) There’s the nice, traditional autumn dinner after Halloween, say, that’s begging for a traditional autumn dessert. There’s that week or two before Thanksgiving when you just can’t wait, or you want to try that new pumpkin pie recipe before serving it on the big day. Then, of course, there’s Thanksgiving itself, when pumpkin pie is mandatory. No questions. No excuses. Pumpkin pie.

For the last several years, I’ve been making my pies from one recipe. Sure, I’ve got a stack of others I’d like to try, lighter pies, fancier, spicier pies, pies with different crusts, toppings and mix-ins. When it gets down to it, though, I usually say, “Why try another pie?” This one is the one

This recipe was given to me my by mother in-law (hi, Sherry!) and was the much-loved recipe of her mother in-law. This is the pie that everyone wants in Harry’s family (especially Harry), and not just because it’s Grandmama’s pie. It also happens to be very, very good. It’s just a little richer, just a little creamier, just a little more old fashioned than other pies. The filling stands up for itself without slumping and weeping, with a consistency somewhere pleasantly between custard and cheesecake that is never grainy or watery.

I had to call my mother in-law last week, in an emerging panic because I had lost this recipe. Lucky for me, she had it readily available (one of the million or so things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving). We discussed the recipe at some length, and I decided to use some more detail in its directions, and I have provided those here. I also added some spices, but those are really a matter of taste anyway. As long as you have some cinnamon, you probably don’t need to stock up on spices that you don’t think you’ll ever use again (although the allspice is in the original recipe and a real asset to the team).

This recipe is for one pie, but is easily doubled (in case, like me, you have friends who request you make their serving a double…you know who you are). This isn’t difficult, but it can be a bit messy if you’re like me in the kitchen.

It really is worth it, however, and when you serve this pie on Thanksgiving (or Christmas or any other day you see fit) they’ll be saying “Hurrah!” for you and “Hurrah!” for Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie! Happy Thanksgiving!

Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe
It is likely that you will have more filling than you can easily fit into the pie shell. If so, pour the excess in a ramekin and bake it alongside the pie. It will take less time than the pie to fully bake.

You could use any single-crust pastry recipe you like, although I recommend a traditional, plain crust. Store-bought crusts are fine. Adjust the spices in the filling as you like them.

1 ½ cups milk (375 ml)
3 tablespoons (about 1 ½ ounces or 40 g) butter
3 eggs
¾ cup (about 5 ½ ounces or 155 g) sugar
1 (15 ounce or g) can pumpkin or 15 ounces (425g) smooth pumpkin or winter squash puree
¾ teaspoon (3ml) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2 ml) ground allspice
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) ground cloves
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) freshly ground nutmeg
1 unbaked pie crust, arranged in a pie pan
whipped cream for serving

1. Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). Heat milk in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until it reaches 180 F (82 C). This is just before the milk boils. (Do not bring all the way to a boil.)

2. Remove the milk from the heat and add the butter. Stir to melt the butter and set aside to cool somewhat.

3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and the sugar together in a large bowl until they are fluffy and pale. Add the pumpkin and the spices and whisk together. Slowly add the milk mixture and whisk until very well combined.

4. Place the crust in the pan on a large baking sheet. (This will make the pie much easier to maneuver.) Pour the filling into the prepared, unbaked pie crust. Reserve any filling that does not fit and bake it separately in a ramekin for a treat for the cook.

5. Cover the exposed edges of the pie crust with strips of aluminum foil. Carefully transfer the baking sheet with the pie into the 450 F (230 C) oven and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Reduce the oven heat to 350 F (180 C). Bake 15 minutes. Remove the foil from the crust. Bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the center of the pie should wobble just a little when the pie is very gently shaken. Remove from the oven and cool completely before slicing. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. Eat leftovers within a couple days. Recipe is easily doubled to make two pies.


  1. Ahhh, Pumpkin Pie. Your delights never cease. That looks delicious; one of the many reasons to be Thankful for this time of year! You should try baking it in a fluted, stoneware pie plate some time. The crust gets done to perfection and adds another layer to the flavor and takes the foil out of the process.

  2. Sounds great! I find the foil to be a bit annoying, especially that last little piece that knocks the other pieces off! At least I've learned to put the foil on _before_ the crust starts to get dark. I can't tell you how many times I've been burned doing it the wrong way!