Wednesday, October 31, 2018

PIE ... You, Too, Can Undo the Curse of the Jack-o'-Lantern!


By Gayle Lynds

Okay, folks, ‘fess up.  You’ve got a pumpkin with an expiration date that’s today – Halloween!  In case you haven’t noticed, tomorrow is post Halloween.  Your front porch or windowsill likely will still boast the evidence, but you’re going to have to do something soon about the Big Round Orange Guy, whether he’s intact or been carved into a glorious jack-o’-lantern.

Of course, you could dump Jack in the trash.  But jack-o’-lanterns make garbage cans awful heavy.  When I first moved to Maine, I learned that lesson the hard way.  Oh, my aching back.

On the other hand, John (my husband, not “Jack”) and I are fortunate to live in a forest inhabited by deer, foxes, turkeys, bears, coyotes, and squirrels.  The first October here, I figured surely someone in the Animal Kingdom other than homo sapiens would want our carefully sculptured orange jewel.  Yum.  Tasty treat.

Cradling Jack, I hiked off through the trees to the edge of a clearing, far enough away from the house to discourage the idea that there’d be more goodies from us.  I set Jack on a pile of oak leaves where he looked mighty handsome, even jaunty.  Definitely a culinary temptation.  With an affectionate “good-bye” and a “best-of-luck,” I walked away.

Jack stayed on my mind.  After a couple of days, I hiked back in, expecting to find he’d been so popular that nothing remained.  But no, there he was, still on his bed of leaves.  Sadly, his grin was deflating.  He was rotting.

I left and tried to forget Jack.  The last of the autumn leaves fell.  The temperatures plunged.  A light snow dusted the trees and grasses.  Our wildlife needed food, I told myself.  They must be hungry.  And so I returned, but Jack was still there.  He was as flat and brown as a pumpkin pancake.  I didn’t see a single nibble mark. 

I got the message:  No one wanted him. 

And then it struck me ... I hadn’t wanted him either.  How is it that something so enticing one day can become unwanted the next?  I considered the meaning of loyalty.  I poked Jack with the toe of my boot.  Hard as granite.  He’d frozen from neglect and rejection.  Just like some people I know. 

Maybe I was feeling my own sense of past isolation.  What about the high school boyfriend who went away to college and never wrote me?  Or my first husband who thought he’d married a housewife but got stuck with a writer instead — now there’s a horror story.  And then there were the rejections of editors when I'd first started out.  I could've papered a bathroom with them.  Worse, what about the times editors tried to rewrite me?  Talk about rejection!

Self-pity rose in my throat.  I kicked Jack – after all, he was just an orange rock now – and stomped away. 

A year passed....  

The next October, we bought a magnificent pumpkin and carved it.  After Halloween, I used my mother’s recipes to cut it up and make a remarkably delicious pumpkin pie.  Mom never rejected me.

So for you, dear Rogue Reader, here are Mom's recipes, which relieved my guilt and set me free, with a full and happy Pumpkin Tummy....

Mom's Easy-Peasy Pie Crusts

Makes 2 crusts:
2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1/4 to ½ cold water

One of the secrets of great pie crusts is to understand the chemistry of your shortening – keeping everything cold (brrr) until you slide the crust into the oven encourages it to bake into a flaky, mouth-watering pastry. 

So put your mixing bowl, utensils, and ingredients in the refrigerator (or ice box, as my family used to say) until they’re truly chilled.  Then cut your shortening into the flour and salt until the mix is crumbly, about the size of peas.  Add in – as little as possible – cold water.  Pat the mixture into a ball and put it back in the refrigerator until all is chilled again.

Sprinkle cold flour on your table top and roll your pie crust thin as you can.  Drape the crust into a pie tin.  Make the edges pretty.  Now you can refrigerate until you’re ready to bake your pie.

Here's what to do with your Jack-o’-Lantern

Gird yourself ... you've got to gut Jack.  He won’t mind – he’s going to turn into a beautiful, aromatic pumpkin pie your family and friends will discover is far tastier than the stuff you get out of can.  For great instructions on how to take possession of Jack's innards, click on this link: Pick Your Own.

Pumpkin Pie Heaven

Or, if you’re like me these days, you’re going to fling aside any potential guilt and buy a can of pumpkin to use as your base.  It’ll be delicious, too! 

2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup milk or evaporated milk
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/4 cup brandy
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Bake your pie crust for 10 to15 minutes at 400 degrees to minimize it from getting soggy.  While it's baking, gently stir all of the pumpkin ingredients together.  After you remove the crust from the oven, pour the pumpkin mix into the crust.

Bake the pie 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake 45 to 50 minutes until the crust is brown and the pumpkin mix is starting to set.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Welcome to Pumpkin Pie Heaven!

What are your favorite holiday pies?  Is pumpkin among them? 

9 comments:

  1. I loved your story about poor Jack! (That might make a delightful children's book, maybe with a happier ending? LOL)

    Anyway, I have yet to make a pie crust from scratch. (would love to, but time!) I have made a pumpkin from scratch. Trader Joe's sells pie pumpkins. I am not sure I noticed much difference between the scratch v. canned. I have yet to find a way of making pumpkin pie or quiche w/o the soggy bottom unless I prebake crust. However, I made the amazing discovery of ceramic pie weight beads to counteract shrinking! I pour those over the pie crust when blind baking (after putting down a layer of parchment paper) and it holds the crust against the sides of the pan. For berry pies, I bake them on a pre-heated pizza stone (covered with foil to catch the drippings), as it does a nice job of baking the bottom of the crust and keeping it from getting soggy. But I digress! Great story! Poor Jack... :-(

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    1. I agree about pie crusts, Robin, and I like your idea of the ceramic beads. Never even heard of them! I prebake my pie shells, which seems to keep them glued to the sides of the tin and lessen sogginess. So much depends on the oven, as well as on us chefs! Alas, I'm now like you, so pressed for time that I seldom make my own crusts anymore. I miss 'em! :)

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  2. Pies from scratch are the only kind worth the calorie bomb that pies are!! My Halloween decoration is due to become a loaf of pumpkin bread but all this talk of pies is tempting me to bake my own apple pie.
    Mmmm....Apple pie.....

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    1. Apple pie is John's absolutely favorite. It used to be near the top of my list, but we've been married enough years now that I'm kinda moving on to berry pies and pumpkin pie. Love John, though! And wish I had a slice of hot, fresh pumpkin bread right now. You made my mouth water!

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  3. Love, love the pumpkin pie recipes -- however, I've always had problems trying to make the crust from scratch -- though I have tried! Oh well, using a "store-bought" crust works since the filling is the key! In addition to your instructions, you can also add a crumble topping of bits of butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon. Happy Halloween to all!

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    1. Love your crumble topping, Karna, and these days I'm with you ... often buying the crust and feeling only mildly guilty. Happy Halloween!

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  4. I love pumpkin pie, but have never tried it with actual pumpkin (I use the canned stuff). Thanks for the pastry tip--I buy it pre-made too. Perhaps I give this a shot and up my pumpkin pie game. Thanks for the recipe!

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  5. Pumpkin pie is fab, and I'm with you about buying the canned pumpkin now. Much of it is awfully good. Have fun making pastry!

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  6. Loved this! :) You even inspired me to inspect our own porch pumpkin for pie potential...but alas, he had already turned to mush. Next year...next year...
    August

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