We at the Londinium Project tend to have, ahem, discussions about what the bare minimum Thanksgiving meal must consist of. One opinion on the matter is: (1) turkey, (2) stuffing, (3) mash(ed potatoes), (4) cranberry sauce, and (5) pumpkin pie.
Now on that last one we are sure to generate some debate. Some will demand apple pie. Others – perhaps even ourselves after a few tipples and forgetting how to count to 5 – will demand pecan. Yet others – the less trustworthy sorts – may cry for blueberry or some other truly inappropriate dessert (however delicious on any other day). While we wholeheartedly support freedom of speech/thought and the opinions of others, we are unwilling to budge on this one: it must be pumpkin!
Oh and one more thing – it must be made by hand.
A culinary pumpkin (should be about 25cm wide)
Condensed milk, 2 cans (about 410g each, so 820g total)
Sugar, 1 cup
Whole cloves, 20, freshly ground (about 1 teaspoon of powder)
Cinnamon, 1 stick, freshly ground (about 2 teaspoons of powder)
Ground ginger, 1 teaspoon
Allspice, 1 teaspoon
Mace, 1 sprig, freshly ground (about 1/4 teaspoon of powder)
Dark rum, 2 teaspoons (or vanilla extract)
Sea salt, just a pinch
The hardest part of this recipe is “goopifying” the pumpkin, but it is more a matter of time than effort. Start by cutting a culinary pumpkin into quarters.
Then the unpleasant part – remove the seeds and the stringy filaments. You can use your hands, and then lightly scrape whatever remains with a spoon – just try not to remove too much of the solid innards, as that is the part we need for the pie.
When that is done, put the quarters into a oven-safe pot, cover, and put it in the oven at around 150c, and let it sit.
Bonus: separate the seeds from the rest of the goop, and put them in the oven for a few minutes to toast them, and nibble on them with a little salt.
Check on the pieces every 20 minutes or so, and test if the middle parts are soft (prod it with a fork – you can see marks in the middle of the chunk in the photo below where we violated it). Or, even better, if you see the edges of the skin starting to peel off, they’re probably soft enough. At that point, remove them from the pot. Grab a large spoon and carefully slide it between the skin and the pulp/flesh/whatever you call it. You should be able to remove the skin very easily (and you can discard the skin when it is separated), and put the mushy parts into a bowl.
Next, we want to strain the water from the goop, so use a sieve over a bowl (you don’t have to go crazy here – just give it a few minutes, and perhaps stir/mash it a bit with a spoon).
You can discard the water (or, if you’re feeling creative, set it aside to use in pumpkin-ish cocktail). Transfer the goop to a blender, and puree it.
When you’ve got your puree, you’re ready to start mixing the pie filling. Note that you can freeze the puree for a few days (probably weeks) if you want to break this recipe up a bit.
Next, combine all the remaining ingredients into a mixing bowl, and whisk it thoroughly. If you don’t have any rum, you can use vanilla extract or grind up some fresh vanilla. If you do have rum, pat yourself on the back and have a glass for yourself. You’ve earned it.
Note: we really like to use (and consume) Zacapa 23 rum here – it is dark and sweet and has a lot of vanilla notes that are perfect for pies like pumpkin and pecan.
Pour everything into your pie crust, and set it in the oven at 190c for about 20 minutes. Then drop the heat to 150c and let bake. It’ll probably take another 45m, but check it every so often using the good old knife test (stick the tip of a knife into the center of the pie, and if it comes out clean, the pie is finished). We like to keep the temperatures lower, and bake times a little longer, to keep the crust from burning. For this version, we used a butter-heavy crust where burning was even easier, but if you’re not using butter (e.g. you’re using shortening or something else) you can get away with higher temps and shorter cooking times.
Teaser: watch out for a future recipe for our rum pecan pie (when we have a photo with a less-burnt crust!)