Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie Filling

This is a purist filling, developed by my good friend Georgeanne Brennan, using homemade pumpkin puree and freshly ground spices. The spices can be ground in a clean coffee mill or spice mill, and give a wonderful fresh taste to the filling. Use your favorite pie crust recipe and bake as instructed below.

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell

1 ¾ cups homemade pumpkin puree (see below)

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (grind a cinnamon stick)

½ teaspoon freshly ground dried ginger (you can find whole dried ginger at some Asian stores)

½ teaspoon freshly ground cloves (grind whole cloves)

2 eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

½ cup water

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large saucepan cook the pumpkin puree over medium eat for about 10 minutes, stirring until it becomes dry and begins to caramelize slightly. Stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning, add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger to the hot puree. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and water. Beat this into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into a pastry-lined pie pan. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for about 45 minutes. Test the pie for doneness by gently shaking it to see how much of the center is still liquid. When only 1 inch still shakes, remove the pie. The center will finish cooking outside the oven. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serves 6

This is enough filling for a 9-inch pie.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Baking pumpkins such as Sugar Pie yield the finest grained, most flavorful puree. Ornamental pumpkins used for carving tend to be fibrous and flavorless.

1  2-3 pound Sugar Pie pumpkin

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the whole pumpkin on a baking sheet and bake until a sharp knife easily pierces through to the seed cavity, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Remove the pumpkin and let it cool. When it is cool enough to handle, peel the skin away with a knife. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and their fibers with a large spoon and discard them. Finally, mash the flesh to a creamy puree by hand with a potato masher or process it in a food processor.

The puree is now ready to use. It can be store in and airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Yields 2 to 3 cups

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