Tale Of A Pumpkin: From Seed To Pie

I don’t remember exactly what possessed me to grow a pumpkin plant this year – I think it may have been guilt for having a package of seeds and not growing them for a few years. Pumpkins take up quite a bit of precious garden real estate, so it would be understandable that I would skip a few years. I’d actually only grown pumpkins twice prior to this year – once was in my first garden where the vines took up about half of the garden but didn’t produce any actual pumpkins, and the other time was about 4 years ago when I grew one plant up a trellis in the back of my garden, that did end up producing 3 small pumpkins which were made in to soup. I’d actually planned on making this year’s two pumpkins in to pie for Canadian Thanksgiving over a month ago, but that didn’t pan out so they’ve just been sitting on my counter collecting dust and cat hair. So with American Thanksgiving this week, I decided to go ahead and try making some pies (really, I’m just using that as an excuse to eat pie).


I started the pumpkin seeds in my house early May, a few weeks before they were transplanted outdoors in one of the raised beds. The plant was along side my chicken wire cat/squirrel barrier fence which acted as a trellis for the plant, so it didn’t end up taking up a lot of room in the garden. It didn’t actually produce any pumpkins until either late July or early August and I didn’t think they would grow big enough to be harvested before freezing temperatures hit. But luckily I was wrong and two green pumpkins were harvested in early September, right before the big freak snowstorm. From there, they turned orange over the next few weeks in the kitchen and lived on the counter until now when they were cut up, roasted, pureed and baked into delicious miniature pies. It seems like a very long and complicated process for pumpkin pie – and it is. I could have easily bought a can of pumpkin from the grocery store and called it a day. But there was something really special to me about planting a little seed, caring for the plant for several months, harvesting the pumpkins myself, and baking them in to a pie. Don’t get me wrong, I will still use canned pumpkin when I do not have access to home grown pumpkins, or when I am feeling lazy – there is actually nothing wrong with canned pumpkin, it is a wonderful thing! But my pumpkin pie from scratch was absolutely amazing – I have never tasted a pumpkin pie that was this delicious. The time you take making this pie is totally worth it, trust me.


Step One: Roast The Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll need one whole sugar pumpkin (sugar pumpkins are specifically pie pumpkins). Wash and dry the outside of your pumpkin and cut it in half (be very careful when cutting it and be very wary of hand and knife placement – luckily I did not injure myself this time but I do have an old pumpkin harvesting injury that has prevented my thumb from ever moving in the same way again). Scoop out the seeds and guts (save the seeds for roasting!). I cut the stem off my pumpkin because I was afraid it might start on fire in the oven. I doubt this would actually happen, I have a bit of paranoia. Place your pumpkin pieces cut side down on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes or until a fork easily slides through the flesh. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Next you’ll want to separate the flesh from the skins and discard the skins. My edges were a bit overcooked but they slid away very easily with my fingers from the rest of the flesh and had the same fate as the pumpkin skins. Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor. Think baby food consistency. You can go ahead and make the rest of your pie now or you can just put the puree in a jar and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it. You’ll only need 1 3/4 cups of puree for the pie and the rest can be used for something else, used to make more pies, or frozen for later use.


Step Two: Make The Crust

– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 cup all-purpose flour (put some additional aside for dusting your counter)
– 1/2 tsp salt

– Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth.
– Add yolk and mix until combined.
– Add salt and gradually add flour until just combined – careful that the mixture is not too dry (if you squeeze some of the dough together in your fist it should not crumble apart).
– Form dough into a disk and refrigerate for an hour or overnight (the dough will be good for up to 3 days).

Just when you’re about to make the filling, remove the dough from the fridge and shape in to your crusts. I used eight 4 inch tart pans (with removable sides) because I prefer baked goods in individual serving sizes because it is easier to control portions and everyone can have their own adorable little pie. The pies will easily come out of your tart pans if they have the removable sides that you push up gently from the bottom. You can use a large pie plate but my guess is that you would have to adjust the baking times a bit longer.

Dust your surface and rolling pin before you roll out the dough. If you don’t have patience for this, you can divide the dough up into smaller discs and mash them in to the tart pans, which is exactly what I did. The wonderful thing about using these tart pans is even though you think your pies will come out looking terrible, they come out the opposite because the tart pans shape the dough beautifully and you don’t have to worry about making a nice decorative edging like you would on one big pie. One of the reasons that I don’t do a lot of pastry baking is that most of my end results come out looking like they were done by a child with sausage fingers. These tart pans are heaven sent for people like me. When your crusts are finished, just set them aside until your filling is ready.


Step Three: Make The Pie Filling

– 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
– 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup maple syrup (I realized as I was making the recipe that my regular syrup had expired over a year ago and tasted very much like molasses. But luckily I had a little bottle of the Noble vanilla & chamomile infused syrup which I used instead)
– 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup heavy cream

– Combine the sugar, spices and salt in a bowl.
– In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
– Lightly beat the eggs, stir them in to the pumpkin mixture, then add the spice mixture (I used my stand mixer on “stir” function). Stir in the cream.

Step Four: Bake The Pie

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
– Grab your pie crusts – if you used individual pans like I did, put them on a baking sheet, it will be much easier to maneuver them in and out of the oven.
– Use a small ladle or a measuring cup to pour the filling in to the crusts – fill level to the top of the crust, not over top.
– Bake the pies at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for about 25-30 more minutes or until filling is set in the middle (you’ll know if you tap the side of the tart pan and the middle does not jiggle and the top is slightly darkened).
– Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.


Step Five: Eat The Pie

This is the part where you whip some of that left over heavy cream to plop on top of your pie (I love just plain cream whipped, no sugar added – it cuts some of the sweetness of the pie). Eat the pie and declare it the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever tasted.


This is my own recipe with inspiration from lots of other recipes I found online – please feel free to use the recipe on your own blog but please link back to my blog and give credit where credit is due.

The September 2014 Garden

I have tried to find a way to start this post that wasn’t “Oh for God’s sake, it’s snowing”. But I can’t. It’s September 8th and it’s snowing. What the hell.

Those little white specks – snow. My neighbor’s sunflowers look so lovely! And then an hour later…


Let’s start this story about a week ago. I knew that the nights were starting to cool down a lot so I kept my eye on the weather forecast for frost warnings. And by “kept my eye on”, I mean checked obsessively every five minutes. I’m ashamed to admit that I learned the hard lesson last year on screwing around with frost warnings (yes, I am human, I make mistakes) – actually, not frost warnings because there wasn’t actually a frost warning. I saw the temperature was going to be borderline and I didn’t do anything. I should have gone out and covered things, but I didn’t. Stupid. So this year, not wanting all of my months-long efforts to go to waste, I watched the forecast carefully. On Wednesday night I checked the forecast a million times before bed and saw that it was only supposed to dip down to about 7 degrees celsius. Safe. Thursday morning I woke up, got ready for work, stepped outside my front door and it was COLD. I quickly touched the foliage of the closest plant. Wet (it had rained the night before) and cold, but not frosty. I scanned the rest of the front yard and it appeared alright. I got into my car and the windshield was COVERED IN ICE. Oh god. What about the tomatoes in the back yard?! What if they are covered in frost and ice? Were they dead?!

The tomatoes were fine. Everything else was fine too. Calm down woman.

Later that day, I got an email from the coordinator at our community garden saying the garden had been vandalized the night previous. Oh great, fantastic. As soon as I got home, I ventured across the street to survey the damage. Our plot was fine. I guess no one wants a bunch of crappy kale and beets. Our plot neighbor lost some squash though – I saw the evidence smashed against the nearby building wall. And some other people lost a few things as well, but gardeners have a pretty thick skin and are used to a bit of disappointment. My husband and I went ahead and harvested the last of the beans and beets. The bean harvest was great this summer, producing about 9 litres of beans from about 12 square feet of space, but the beet harvest was pathetic. Most beets were about golf ball sized, so we only really got about 4 litres of beets from that space. Luckily I’d also planted beets at home which turned out much nicer and significantly larger. We left the kale and leeks in place for now – we have more kale than we know what to do with, so if someone wants to help themselves I will not be sad. Go ahead hooligans, steal my kale.


And then our fridge decided to start dying. It hasn’t completely died, but it is happening soon. I’ve been feeling like it has been on its way out for awhile now but it has started randomly spilling out a lot of water ON MY NEW FLOOR. This isn’t the happiest news, especially at harvest time when one requires a fridge to store vegetables. We could get someone in to look at and repair the fridge, but frankly it is old and an energy suck and we’d just prefer to bite the bullet and purchase a new fridge. Now here’s the catch: Megan is extremely picky about everything that she buys, especially when it has a significant price tag attached. She does not want to go out and buy the cheapest replacement fridge and then have to look at it and secretly resent it for the next 20 years. Megan wants a really pretty and good quality fridge. Therefore we have come to the decision to purchase a mini-fridge as a placeholder until we can save up some money over the next couple of months and buy something really nice.  The cost of the mini fridge would be around the same as getting a professional to come in just to look at the dying fridge, plus we have a friend who is in the market for a mini-fridge and has offered to buy the mini-fridge from us when we are done with it. My brother is excited because he basically gets all the food that will not fit into the mini-fridge. Everyone wins. Except the old fridge – you lose. Oh and the microwave died too but we’re not too sad about that – we are going to try going microwave-less. If the oven dies I’m going to absolutely lose it.

Okay back to the tomatoes. After my little scare on Thursday morning and after the drama of the community garden, I went home and covered my tomatoes for the night. I wrapped them up in any spare sheets and fleece blankets that I could round up, then secured the covers with clothespins. It didn’t freeze that night, but at least I had peace of mind. Things started to warm up on Friday so the chance of frost was lifted and the forecast for the weekend was decent. But there was talk of snow early in the week. Seriously?! On Saturday I went out and picked all of the green indeterminate tomatoes. I didn’t really want to so early – I thought I had a few more weeks to allow ripening on the vines. And really, although I live in Alberta and know in the back of my mind that we could get snow any time, I still like to believe that we shouldn’t get snow until at least October. Sigh.


Now on to the rest of September. This afternoon I harvested the corn (we have corn!), one last zucchini, two green pumpkins and a handful of cherry tomatoes. And I brought some of the herb pots indoors just in case. I also had 3 pots of cherry tomatoes growing on my deck so I moved those pots into the greenhouse where it is a bit warmer.


Once the weather warms up again and it stops raining/snowing, we’ll clean up the yard a bit and harvest some of the other things like the remaining beets and carrots. The composts will be turned, rain barrels emptied, and raised beds and pots cleaned out and stored for winter. I can’t believe we’re at this time of year already – it honestly seems like yesterday that I was rushing around in a panic to get everything planted and now everything is covered in a layer of white snow.