Since I took on baking them myself, all my holiday pies have come directly from the pumpkin. Over time the pies have become my expected contribution to the feast.
Back in the food dark ages, I used ordinary jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Although the pulp was on the watery side, it was still an improvement over that nasty looking stuff in the cans.
I graduated to Sugar Pie pumpkins when they became readily available, and in recent years have grown my own.
This year’s crop of exotically named Galeux D Eysines heirlooms was surely the best ever. The name romantically translates to “embroidered with pebbles from Eysines.” A luscious rosy salmon color with oddly warty bumps, they were almost too gorgeous to bake, but bake them I did.
In prior years I’ve cut my pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds and baked them face down on a cookie sheet. But the behemoth that came out of the garden this year—16 inches in diameter and packed with about 25 pounds of solid orange flesh— stymied that plan; cutting through that monster would have taken a chainsaw.
Always looking for the simple solution, I decided just to pop (well, maybe "wedge" is a more apt description) the whole thing into the oven with the temperature set at 350ºF. After three hours, it was so tender I could pierce it through with a bamboo skewer. Its drooping over the cookie sheet did make it a little tricky to extricate from the oven, (can you hear my husband laughing in the background?) but once on the counter, scooping out the lovely orange flesh and separating the seeds was a breeze. After this successful experiment, I have sworn off wrestling with a knife an unbaked pumpkin ever again.
Out of the food processor flowed a silken orange puree that set my mouth watering in anticipation of the pies to come. I just couldn't wait for some pumpkin goodness, so Thursday night I grabbed a quart from the fridge to make a curry soup that tasted of fall in the garden. Now that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.