18 October 2010

Family recipe Monday: autumn pies

Autumn light streams in
 Stained glass lends more beauty
Cat dreams in colors. 

Farmers' market ends
Gardens yield their last harvest--
October feasting.

It is a gloriously pretty time up here on the prairies, but it's obvious from the color and slant of the sunlight that fall is racing toward the cold times. The cranes have started returning in huge flocks, flying high and fast, headed for Texas and New Mexico and other warm refugia after summer in the Arctic. Their calls trail after them, sounding like soft questions. Where? Where?

The farmers' market is selling the last of the produce and more of the canned goods. All the pumpkins, squash and gourds are coming in nicely, unlike the apples and plums of summer. The root vegetables are also maturing rapidly.

Pies featuring autumn produce are different in texture and preparation from the fresh fruit pies of summer, less sweet and more at home with the warm spices. In general, both sweet potato and pumpkin/squash pies are based on a custard preparation, baked at a low temperature to allow the custard to set without cracking. They are single-crust (like most custard pies) and often are topped with a meringue or whipped cream layer.

I have moved away from cinnamon somewhat and more toward nutmeg and allspice. It's trickier to get the gentler cinnamon as opposed to the harsher cassia, and the latter can mask the flavor of a pie. Nutmeg and allspice let the flavor shine through. The following recipes from the Simple Gifts files tend to call for cinnamon because that was what was available in West Texas at the time. You can substitute spices and experiment until you hit the right combination.

Prize sweet potato pecan pie

 ½ cups mashed sweet potatoes
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups scalded milk
2 well-beaten eggs

Fill unbaked pie shell. Bake in moderate oven, 350* F, until nearly set, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with mixture of ½ cup butter, ½ cup brown sugar and ¾ cup pecans. Continue baking until custard is done (about 45 minutes in all). Serve with whipped cream.

Here is a recipe for a custard which is wholly cooked before being poured into the pie crust to set up.

Pumpkin chiffon pie

1 cup pumpkin (cook slowly in heavy stewer 10 minutes and cool)
½ tsp salt
3 beaten egg yolks
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 T butter or margarine
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon

Mix these ingredients and add to pumpkin, cook until thick. Then add one envelope gelatin that has been soaked in ¼ cup cold water, 1 tsp grated orange rind, and 1 T butter or margarine. When this mixture begins to thicken, add the 3 egg whites, beaten stiff, to which ½ cup of sugar has been added. Pour into baked pie shell. Top with whipped cream and nuts.
--Vada Brooks Johnson

Mrs. Peters’s pumpkin pie

2 T butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup mashed pumpkin or squash {cooked}
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ¼ cups milk

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and eggs and mix well. Then add the remainder of the ingredients and mix. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake 1 hour at 375* F.

Finally, here is a custard pie that is a comfort food with no rival. I think that this is a Southern speciality. It's hard to find it anywhere else.

Buttermilk pie

8 T butter
2 cups sugar
3 T flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Dash nutmeg
Unbaked 9” pie shell

Cream butter and sugar together well. Beat in flour and eggs. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated 350* F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the custard sets. Cool before serving.

Happy Monday. And for you math geeks....

Here is what I did with the apples in the second picture. There are so many ways to use extra pie crust dough decoratively.... 

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