I’m not much of a baker, but I can make some pretty delicious pies. My all-time best is huckleberry pie, made from fresh berries picked in the mountains of Oregon. Difficult to recreate here in Colorado Springs, that’s okay. It’s okay, because my second best pie is fresh pumpkin pie, made from pumpkins I grow myself. I’ve been doing this for years, and the process is easier then you might think. And then there’s the outcome – better than any pumpkin pie you’ve had before.
I start my pumpkin plants in early May, in decompostable pots that I can plant directly in the ground without risking transplant shock (pumpkins hate to be transplanted). I keep my little babies in the house under grow lights until the soil warms-up, and then plant the start (pot and all) in mounds of rich soil. Pumpkins like full sun, warm soil, even water, and protection from hail (good luck with that last one).
Summer care for the pumpkin plants is pretty basic – work in compost as you can, water evenly, watch for pests, and, ahem, keep them safe from hail (I said basic, not easy). Pumpkins grow at phenomenal rates, so if you’re growing conventional pumpkins make sure you have 20′ of running room for you plants. I grow Cheyenne Bush Pumpkins, which take up no more space than a zucchini plant – very handy in confined urban spaces, and they produce well.
Once your pumpkins are full sized (sizes vary depending on variety), you’re ready to harvest and prepare your pumpkins for pie filling. I’ve never worried about growing pie specific pumpkins, as I think the flavor is just as nice with any pumpkin I’ve used. Pie pumpkins have a little more intense pumpkin flavor and are a bit sweeter, but that has never made a noticeable difference in my pies.
- Cut and clean pumpkins – remove tops, insides, and quarter the fruit
- Bake face-up, covered in tinfoil, for an hour at 350 degrees F or until done (skin is hard and flesh is soft
- Scrape flesh into a pot, and cook down until pumpkin is thick
- Add pumpkin to blender and puree until smooth
- Drain pumpkin in cheese cloth to remove any remaining liquids
Once you get the pumpkin to this stage you can use any ol’ pumpkin pie recipe you have handy (old family recipes are the best). As a pie purest, I use a recipe that allows me to add eggs from chickens and honey from my bee hive – a nice sweet touch especially when using non-pie sanctioned pumpkins for your pies (try this recipe). I make my own crust as well, which is just about the best part as far as I’m concerned (I’m one of those that cooks up the crust scraps with cinnamon sugar – so good!).
So that’s it – the quick version of growing your own pumpkins and making homemade pumpkin pie. Remember this post next spring when you’re starting your seeds and you’ll have pumpkins to cook with next fall. With the holiday season upon us, and pie making in full swing, I hope you have some sweet enjoyment coming your way. I’ll be making pumpkin pies this year as always, and I’ll be enjoying them every bit as much this as previous – it’s just not the holidays without homemade pie.