Thanksgiving. It’s all about family, right? So in the spirit of tradition and the holiday, I’m going to share my grandmother’s version of pumpkin pie. I thought you should know something about her if you try her recipe. I’d like to wax nostalgic about Grandmother, but it is hard to get all misty-eyed. Grandmother was not the cuddly type but she had her good points.
She was direct.
When I was 13: “You’re fat!”
When I was in my twenties, wearing make-up: “A little too much rouge, Sally dear.”
When I was divorced after less than a year of marriage: “I thought you were in an awful hurry when you married him.”
When she met my true husband: “What does his father do? Do they have money?”
When she learned he was Mexican-American: “Are they short?” My husband, at six feet-plus towered over her. But she insisted. “Aren’t they all short?”
And as my uncle Timmy said, “Catherine, you may have shut off your hearing aid, but you will turn your head at the rustle of a dollar bill across a crowded room.”
She had another good point. The woman could cook.
I’ve never seen anyone able to pull odds and ends out of the refrigerator to make a fabulous little meal or snack as well as Grandmother. Even liverwurst was pretty good when she added her pickled cucumbers.
Okay, that may be a nostalgia thing.
This version of pumpkin pie has a light, custardy texture and it is not very sweet, so you may want to adjust the sugar to 3/4 cup if you like your pies sweet. Naturally, after years of eating it, I think it’s perfect. You can use canned pumpkin (Grandmother did) but if you want to go the extra mile, make your own puree from a fresh pumpkin—the resulting pie will be good both ways; it is a little lighter and more delicate if you use fresh pumpkin. This pie is best eaten on the day it is made, but you can make the filling and line the pie pan a day ahead and put them together and bake the pie on Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Pie (Makes one 10-inch pie)
1/2 recipe flaky
or 1 ten-inch pie shell of your choice
2 large eggs
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or 1 can pumpkin if you must)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 10-inch pie pan with dough and crimp the edges.
2. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl until they are blended. Stir in the brown sugar, half-and-half, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger and salt. When they are blended, stir in the melted butter and pour the filling into the pie shell. (Note: To help with the soggy bottom problem, you can pre-bake the shell for 15 minutes if you like, using the blind baking method.)
3. Place the pie in the oven and decrease the temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the center of the pie comes out clean. Set the pie on a rack to cool and serve at room temperature with plain or maple flavored whipped cream.
Maple Flavored Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Chill the bowl and beaters of a mixing bowl. Add the cream, maple syrup and vanilla. Beat until soft peaks form. If you are using a machine, turn it off before the cream is completely whipped and whisk the final few seconds by hand to avoid over whipping it.