Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie!

Yes Indeed, Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie! 

Since Maine and Thanksgiving are both rich with tradition, this blog will be nosing around my kitchen and an old tradition of making a pie from scratch. My friend Natalie Bolton in Colorado, of Wise Penny Marketing & Design LLC, is the author of the pie crust recipe. The pumpkin pie recipe that follows it is directly from the pages of an 1890 cookbook my grandmother once used here on the farm. Pairing the pumpkin pie filling from scratch with Natalie’s homemade pie crust, just might make your Thanksgiving dessert extra special. It can also be a way to use up some leftover Halloween pumpkins instead of just tossing them away as waste. 

Make Your Own Pie Dough in 15 Minutes or Less

Before you run off to the store to purchase a packaged pie crust, wait! You can make a low-cost, delicious and beautiful pie dough yourself in about 15 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll need to make a single 9” pie shell:

1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ - ½ t. salt (adjust according to your preference)
1/3 c. vegetable shortening (I like using the sticks as they're easy to measure)
3 T. ice water

I've found that one of the keys to making a great crust is to start with cold ingredients. So, at least an hour before you begin, put your shortening and flour in the fridge.

Now, once you're ready to start, gather your ingredients and mix your flour and salt thoroughly in a mixing bowl with a fork:

Next, add your cold shortening to the flour mixture . . .

and mix in with quick strokes using your fork or a pastry blender. DO NOT OVERMIX – it should not be smooth. You want to end up with bits of shortening still in the mix.

Next, add about 2 T. of ice water and start to work it in:

As the mixture comes together, set aside your fork and start shaping the mix into a ball gently with your hands. Add water by small amounts, up to another 1 T. water, until you are able to incorporate all the flour into the ball. If you add too much water and it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.

Ta-da! Your dough is complete! If you have time, wrap the dough in plastic and set in the fridge for half an hour or so before preparing to roll it out. (You can leave it in the fridge overnight if you want, but I find that leaving it longer than that makes it rather crumbly and more difficult to roll out.)

Now, in order to roll out your dough and get it into the pie plate as easily as possible, you need to be able to transfer it smoothly. I find the best way to do this is to roll it out on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper.

To do this, take a square of plastic wrap, smooth it carefully and tape each corner onto your clean countertop:

Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the surface, place your dough in the middle, and begin to roll out. Smooth the edges as you go to keep the circle as round as possible:

When your crust gets near the edge of the plastic wrap, place your pie plate carefully on top to make sure you have enough crust to go past the edges of the dish:

Next, remove the corners of tape from the countertop and slide your hand carefully beneath the plastic:

Place your other hand on top of the dish and flip it over. Remove the plastic wrap carefully and gently press the crust into the edges evenly. Now you can use your thumb and forefinger to make pretty fluted edges like this:

At this point, if your recipe calls for a baked crust, preheat your oven to 400ยบ and use a fork to prick all around the bottom and sides of the crust . This helps keep the crust from puffing up during baking. (You can also use pie weights or pour beans on the bottom, but I find removing them can a bit of a challenge.)

Place your crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Depending on the heat of your oven, you may need to bake for up to 20 minutes to get the desired browning – my oven tends to be hot and I don't like it too browned, so I usually only need about another 2-5 minutes of baking:

Now you have a lovely 9” baked pie shell

Pie crust recipe, instructions, and photography by Natalie Bolton

Next up: Pumpkin pie!


Cut a firm fresh pumpkin into long strips, remove the soft pulp and seed, pare the strips and cut them into small pieces. Place the pumpkin in a kettle with very little water, cover the kettle tightly, and stew slowly, stirring frequently and adding water if necessary if pumpkin is in danger of becoming too thick, but always remember the less water you need to use makes for a better pie. When the pumpkin is soft, drain in a colander and mash (these days we can toss it into a blender). After it is pureed, it is ready to use to make pies, cakes, breads, pudding, or just plain mashed pumpkin garnished with brown sugar and spices.

The old cookbook says,  “The quantities given below will make three good, deep pies.”


One quart of stewed pumpkin
Three pints of milk
Six eggs
One tablespoonful of salt
One and a half tablespoonful of ginger
One teaspoonful of cinnamon
One cupful of sugar

Beat the eggs very light, add them to the pumpkin, and stir until mixture is creamy; then add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir thoroughly, and when the mass is well mixed add the milk, a little at a time. Taste the mixture and add additional sugar and spice if needed. Line three pie-tins, divide the filling among them, stirring it all the time it is being poured into the plates; and bake half an hour in a quick oven. Do not be afraid to use the quantity of ginger given, for much of its strength is evaporated in the baking. This is a most reliable recipe and will produce most delicious pies.

Note: A quick oven these days is about 425°F.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For even more traditional Thanksgiving recipes and fun, check our the The Yankee Chef™

Coming Up...
My next blog posts will  feature Wreaths Across America, a touching tradition of remembrance which began in Harrington, Maine and 
"Last Night!" a unique New Year's Eve tradition in Blue Hill, Maine.
Stay tuned!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail