Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe

The secret ingredient in this Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe is real squash grown from your own garden. ‘Sweet meat’ squash, or any other flavorful squash, has natural sugars that sweeten and develop the flavor of the pie more fully than regular sugar.

| December 2012

In The Resilient Gardener (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010) scientist and gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields—resilience science, climate change, sustainable agriculture and more. In this book you’ll learn how to garden in an era of unpredictable weather and climate change; grow, store and cook different varieties of her five “key crops”; and keep a home laying flock of ducks or chickens. Deppe didn’t just write this book, she lives the principles in it every day, and you can, too, with her expert advice. Try making this Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe and notice how homegrown squash’s natural sugars sweeten the pie just as well as regular sugar. This recipe is excerpted is from chapter 10, “Squash and Pumpkins.” 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Resilient Gardener.

The Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Filling Ingredients (for Two Big Pies) 
6 cups baked mashed ‘Sweet Meat’ or other prime squash or pumpkin
2–2 1/4 cups eggs (I use duck eggs, but chicken eggs are fine.)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1–3 cups brown sugar, packed down, depending upon the sweetness of the individual fruit
2 Tbs. Carol’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix (16:4:4:1 cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves)
1 tsp. real vanilla powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Recipes for pumpkin pie generally assume you are using poor-quality, watery boiled squash or pumpkin, most likely the bland stuff from cans. Such pies are based more upon the flavor of milk, cream, sugar, and spices than upon the squash or pumpkin, which is only a minor ingredient. I wanted to learn to make a pie from ‘Sweet Meat’ squash, which has considerable sugar of its own and its own rich flavor. I wanted as much squash as possible in the pie and as little as possible of other ingredients. I did not want to use evaporated or condensed milk, which have objectionable flavors and large amounts of cow’s milk protein. My pie would need less added sugar than most, because ‘Sweet Meats’ have so much sugar, and the pie would be mostly squash. I also wanted the pie to emphasize things I grow myself, that is, squash and eggs, and de-emphasize things I don’t grow, that is, dairy products and sugar. I particularly wanted my pie to minimize dairy protein, which gives me problems. If possible, I would design the pie to get the protein needed from eggs, not milk. I even experimented with soy milk powder. It didn’t work. Soy milk may be white and have protein in it, but it tastes nothing whatsoever like milk. The perfect pumpkin pie must have some dairy in it. Delightfully enough, dairy protein turns out to be unnecessary. I use heavy whipping cream, which has only traces of milk protein. This makes pies I can eat substantial amounts of for several days straight without getting a stuffy nose or other allergic reactions. Of course, using cream runs the calories up. But it adds flavor and rich­ness to the pie, and I can deal with extra calories more easily than not being able to breathe.

I believe desserts should be serious food. I don’t usually eat desserts. When I do eat a dessert, though, I often pig out cheerfully, eat only the dessert, and call it dinner. That helps take care of the calorie issue, if the dessert is serious enough food to justify substituting it for dinner. So when I design a dessert, I’m willing for it to be rich and full of calories, as long as those calories are not empty calories. Using these principles, I included as many eggs as possible in this Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe, maximized the amount of squash, and limited the sugar and cream to what is necessary to give the spectacularly delicious pie I wanted. Most of the year, I view my Perfect Pumpkin Pie as a glori­ous but somewhat indulgent way of having eggs and squash for dinner. Only on holidays do I eat the Perfect Pumpkin Pie and a full meal. That takes care of the calorie issue. (Some people would suggest that it’s OK to have such a rich dessert only if you restrict the portion size, but when I’m in the same house with a Perfect Pumpkin Pie, that isn’t going to happen. I need other approaches. Like restricting everything else.) My recipe will work with any richly flavorful prime gourmet winter squash or pumpkin such as those I recommend. (At least, all those big enough to provide substan­tial amounts of flesh.)

I found I could not produce a great squash or pumpkin pie with a commercial pumpkin-pie spice mix. Most have either too much clove seasoning or none at all, and the spices tend to be stale. So I developed my own pumpkin-pie spice mix. It is a 16:4:4:1 ratio of cinnamon to ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Spices in little jars are often stale, even on the store shelf. I always buy bulk, sniffing before buying. Also, use real vanilla powder, not an extract. The vanilla powder has a much richer and more complex flavor. (Bob’s Red Mill sells it.) Store the spice mix and the vanilla in the freezer. Even frozen, neither retains its full potency beyond a year. Use real brown sugar. (Real brown sugar has just one ingredient—brown sugar.) A light or medium-dark brown sugar is best. (Very dark brown sugar has too much molasses flavor, which overwhelms the flavor of the squash.)

10/22/2014 10:43:33 AM

Ohhh, I love pumpkin pie. It's my favorite and this year the pumpkins and squash were prolific! WHAT type of squash did you use? I have loads of zucchini and have made lots of zucchini recipes but would love to see if they would go well into pumpkin pie! Thanks!

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