Amelia Simmons, author of American Cookery published in 1796, is credited with a pumpkin pudding recipe in a crust that would become the basis of today's beloved pumpkin pie. While canned pumpkin is the simplest option for pie making, learn how to make pumpkin pie the old-fashioned way: by making a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin.
For a jack-o'-lantern, the bigger the pumpkin, the better. This isn't the case for pie pumpkins. Avoid ornamental varieties and large pumpkins, which are bred for size and looks, not flavor. Instead, choose those labeled as pie pumpkins. They are small, dense, and rich in color, and they have a sweet, full-flavor flesh. Some varieties include Sugar Pie, Baby Pam, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, and New England Pie. Pumpkin season lasts from September through November. Look for pumpkins that are blemish-free and heavy for their size. Store them in a cool place for up to 1 month.
2-1/2 pound pie pumpkin = 1-3/4 cups puree (equivalent to one 15-ounce can pumpkin)
3-1/2 pound pie pumpkin = 2-1/2 cups puree
How to Make Pumpkin Puree When making a pumpkin pie from scratch, turn to pumpkin puree to use in place of canned pumpkin. To make puree, first cut up the pumpkin and bake it. Here's how:
Tip: You can cook and puree the pumpkin ahead. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or place the puree in a freezer container or freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw the puree in the refrigerator to use.
Most people consider the piecrust to be the hardest part of making a pie. While it takes a little practice, tender, flaky pastry isn't difficult to achieve. Follow these pointers:
Tip: If you have a thin spot, use some of the dough scraps to build it up so the edge is as even as possible.
For a fluted edge, place a fork or a finger against the inside edge of the pastry. Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, press the pastry around the fork or finger. Continue around the circumference of the pie.
Now that you have the pumpkin puree and the pie pastry done, the filling is a 5-minute job. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, sugar, spices, and salt. Lightly beat the eggs with a whisk, and whisk them into the pumpkin mixture just until combined. Stir in the milk just until combined, and pour the filling into the unbaked piecrust.
Tip: For a mild pie, use the minimum amount of spices. For a more intense spice flavor, bump up the amount of spices in the filling.
You can substitute homemade pumpkin puree for any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling).
Cranberry-Pecan Caramel Topper: This no-cook nut-and-berry mixture makes an attractive garnish for your pumpkin pie.
In a medium bowl combine 1/3 cup dried cranberries with 3 tablespoons brandy or apple juice. Let the mixture stand about 15 minutes; this plumps and softens the dried fruit. Sir in 1-1/2 cups pecan halves that have been toasted and 1/4 cup caramel-flavor ice cream topping. You can spoon it atop the pie and serve it right away, or chill the topper for up to a week.