Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. But if I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really liked it!
Not because I don’t like pumpkin pie in and of itself, but because growing up I was subjected to my share of store-bought imposters and a few “homemade” pumpkin pies whose ingredients lists included a can of store-bought pumpkin purée and a pre-made pie crust that may as well have been cardboard. Quite frankly, by the time I was an adult I was all but completely turned off by pumpkin pie, and would regularly skip dessert at Thanksgiving.
When my now husband and I first started hosting Thanksgiving dinners a few years ago, I didn’t bother with a pumpkin pie. So I cooked dinner and I let our guests bring dessert. It didn’t much matter what they brought as I was in the habit of skipping dessert at Thanksgiving anyway, on account of my history with dense, bland and boring pumpkin pie.
And yet, I’m a pumpkin romantic. I, like so many others, go crazy for fall and for pumpkin spice and the pumpkin patch and for all things pumpkin and burnt orange and beautiful this time of year. So naturally, when my husband began reminiscing and raving about the pumpkin pies his mother used to make at Thanksgiving when he was young, I was intrigued.
I voiced my aversion to pumpkin pie to him and listed my reasons for disliking it. But he assured me that his mother’s pie was different. It wasn’t at all dense because it was whipped. The flavours were spot on because it was homemade, and the crust wasn’t that dry store-bought stuff because it was made out of gingersnap cookie crumbs and butter. It sounded pretty good, and after a couple years of him asking me to make it, I decided to give it a go last year.
The pumpkin pie that puts all others to shame
I played around with the spice level a bit and swapped out canned pumpkin for real pumpkins that I puréed fresh, and then I folded in luscious hand-whipped cream to make it all light and fluffy and decadent without the density.
OMG! Not only was that pumpkin pie the BEST pumpkin pie I had ever eaten, it was quickly gobbled up by every one of our guests, even the self-proclaimed pumpkin-pie haters like my former self. And with that, it became a Thanksgiving tradition in our house.
Naturally, I made it again this year with pumpkins that we grew ourselves. Adding the homegrown factor in truly gave it that next-level touch of freshness and tastiness. There’s just something about growing your own food that makes it taste better.
Maybe it’s because of the history we have with the food that we grow ourselves; The connection to food that was sown and grown and harvested with our own two hands. Our pie was months in the making, from the seeds that we started indoors last spring to the struggles we had with pumpkins falling off the vine during a bout of blossom end rot this summer, all the way to the harvest this fall. Knowing exactly where and how the pumpkins were grown (and being a part of the sweat equity that went into growing them) truly made this pie taste all the sweeter.
Even if you don’t grow your own pumpkins, preparing everything from scratch makes everything taste better and helps you to appreciate your food that much more. And that’s what Thanksgiving is all about: good food and gratitude:)
Preparing your crust
You start by making your own pie crust by combining 2 cups of gingersnap cookie crumbs with ½ cup of melted butter and then press that into a pie plate. You don’t even need to bake your crust! Just refrigerate until solid!
The gingersnap cookies can be store-bought, or if you really want everything to be made from scratch you can make a batch of homemade gingersnap cookies ahead of time and use those! Just throw them in a blender or food processor to make cookie crumbs.
*If you would rather have a traditional pie crust instead of a ginger cookie one, you can easily whip up a batch of this easy homemade all-purpose pie crust. Just pre-bake your crust, allow it to cool and then pour your pumpkin pie mixture in when ready. Refrigerate until solid and then serve!
Preparing your pie filling
While you could use store-bought canned pumpkin pie filling for this recipe, I encourage you to try using fresh pumpkins. Preparing pumpkin purée from scratch (whether using your own homegrown pumpkins or organic pumpkins bought from your local farmers market or pumpkin patch) is easy and sooo much better than spooning out a glob of store-bought, canned pumpkin purée that could have come from anywhere. Oh, and did you know that canned “pumpkin” is usually not pumpkin at all?
Dr. Oz himself exposed the canned pumpkin myth on his show last year. Turns out, the USDA is pretty flexible with the definition of “pumpkin,” so often your canned pumpkin will actually be some other type of canned squash. Now, that’s not a big deal, but doesn’t it feel like you’re getting ripped off a bit? Plus, different squashes taste different! There’s no substitute for a true sugar pumpkin, which is what any authentic pumpkin pie is typically made with.
The great thing is you have the power to know (and decide) exactly what is in your pumpkin pie by making your pumpkin purée from scratch. You’ll also know what is not in your pie, including preservatives and added ingredients you didn’t ask for.
The pumpkin purée is easy to make. All you need to do is cut a couple medium-sized sugar pumpkins in half, scoop out the innards leaving the skin and flesh behind (just like when carving a pumpkin), and then roast the pumpkin halves flesh side down (skin side up) on a baking tray.
Once the flesh is nice and soft and not stringy, scoop it out of the skin and toss it in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and voilà! You’ve got pumpkin purée!
Other uses for pumpkin purée
You’ll need two cups of pumpkin purée for one pie, but you can use any leftover purée to eat fresh, to make puréed baby food, or even to make some homemade pumpkin spice syrup to add to coffees (I will share this recipe soon!).
*Note: If you do your own home canning and food preserving, please note that it is NOT SAFE to can pumpkin purée at home. You may pressure can cubed pumpkin, but puréed pumpkin is too dense to can at home as home canners do not reach high enough temperatures to kill all dangerous bacteria. You can freeze homemade pumpkin purée ahead of time if you like, or just store pumpkins in your pantry (they keep for a long time) and make this pie filling fresh!
And don’t forget to save the pumpkin seeds! Wash them, dry them and toss them in butter and salt and then throw them on a baking sheet at 300ºF for about half an hour and then eat them like popcorn! Any leftover pumpkin “guts” can be composted along with the skin and stem, meaning every part of your pumpkin gets utilized!
Putting your pie together
Once you have your two cups of puréed pumpkin, add in your pumpkin pie spices (I found the perfect blend is 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice). Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix that all into your pumpkin purée.
Then, over medium heat, stir in some heavy cream, a few egg yolks, brown sugar and gelatin (to help your pie filling set), remove from heat, pop in the fridge until cool and then fold in some whipped cream to make your filling light and fluffy. Then spoon it all into your prepared crust and let set in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. When it’s time for pie, it’s all ready to serve and enjoy!
This pie admittedly takes a bit more work than making a homemade pie with store-bought pumpkin pie filling and pie crust, and a lot more work than picking up a store-made pie, but it is so worth every ounce of effort. You get a truly delectable pumpkin pie that will convert even the most die-hard pumpkin cynics. I know because my mom is another pumpkin-pie hater, and after convincing her to try “just a sliver” last night, she went back for seconds and asked for some to go.
So if you have a certain family member (mother, mother-in-law, crazy uncle?) you’re dying to impress without looking like you tried to hard, this is the dessert that will do it. Or if you’re just looking for the best damned pumpkin pie to stuff your own face with, look no further;)
What about you? Do you have any to-die-for pumpkin recipes? If so, please share with us in the comments section below!
- 2 cups puréed pumpkin (if using fresh pumpkin, you'll need 2 or 3 small to medium-sized sugar pumpkins)
- 1 cup whipping cream, divided
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice and salt
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 packet of unflavoured gelatin
- 1 Tbsp of olive oil (to brush over pumpkins when roasting)
- 2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (roughly one package of store-bought cookies or a dozen homemade)
- ½ cup melted butter
- Preheat the over to 350ºF. Select 2 to 3 medium-sized sugar pumpkins and, using a large, sharp kitchen knife, remove the tops and then slice the pumpkins in half length-wise. Spoon out the pumpkin "guts."
- Brush a little olive oil over the flesh side of the pumpkin halves and then lay each half flesh-side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350ºF for about an hour (or until flesh is soft and the consistency of mashed potatoes). Remove roasted pumpkins from the oven and allow to cool.
- While pumpkins are cooling, Use a blender or food processor to pulse your gingersnap cookies until you have 2 cups of cookie crumbs. Then mix cookie crumbs and melted butter together and press into a pie plate. There is no need to grease the pie plate as the butter in the pie crust will help it to not stick. Refrigerate pie crust. _*If you would rather a traditional pie crust, this easy all-purpose pie crust is a great substitute. Just pre-bake it, allow it to cool and then pour your prepared pie filling in._
- While crust is setting in the refrigerator, begin making your pumpkin pie filling. First, scrape out all of the soft, roasted pumpkin flesh and discard the pumpkin skins (compost if possible). Next, put all of the flesh into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Measure out 2 cups of pumpkin purée for the pie.
- In a pot over medium heat, combine the pumpkin purée, gelatine, egg yolks, sugar, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, salt and ½ cup of whipping cream. Stir to mix well until all ingredients are evenly combined. Allow mixture to just come to a boil while stirring constantly. Then, remove from the heat and put in the refrigerator until the mixture sets.
- Beat the remaining ½ cup of whipping cream and then whip in about ¼ of the puréed pumpkin. Fold in the remaining puréed pumpkin until well combined.
- Spoon pumpkin pie filling into prepared crust and refrigerate until set (at least 3 or 4 hours. Overnight is best).
- Pie is ready to serve straight out of the fridge!