I don’t like pumpkin pie. Let me clarify that. I don’t like the traditional pumpkin pie, the one that looks like a relative of flan but isn’t. And I suspect I’m not alone. If I were, pumpkin pie would show up year ‘round, like apple pie, or lemon meringue, or blueberry. It doesn’t. Even so, I think Thanksgiving dinner should-one way or another- include something made with pumpkin or a close relative thereof.
There is only one first hand account of the Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, a quick mention in a letter written in December by colonist Edward Winslow to a friend in England. The only food mentioned in the account are the deer killed by the Wampanoag Indians. So unless you’re serving venison, the menu for the first Thanksgiving is irrelevant.
Now if you’re talking “seasonality,” that’s a different discussion altogether.
Pumpkin is a thick skinned winter squash, a close relative of butternut, acorn, hubbard, and buttercup squash. As it turns out, there’s more than one kind of pumpkin. And while they’re all edible, some taste a lot better than others.
I really like acorn and butternut squash, and I serve them a lot. Butternut can be substituted for pumpkin in a lot of savory recipes, but I’ve never used it for baking. To be honest, when I’m baking, I use canned pumpkin. Remember, this is about “home cooking,” not The French Pastry School.
So let’s check out a few of the alternatives to the traditional pumpkin pie. First up is pumpkin bread. My recipe makes two 9×5-breads. That’s a lot of pumpkin bread, even if you like it, which I do. The breads freeze well, and I usually freeze one. I know pumpkin bread isn’t a dessert, but it is sweet and it is made with pumpkin.
And then there’s pumpkin cheesecake. Have you ever tasted a cheesecake you didn’t like? It’s killer, and I’m not talking about the calorie or fat count. One bite, and I want to eat it all. Happily, so does everyone else, and I have to make do with a slice.
And then there’s my personal favorite- pumpkin ice cream pie. I know I’ve mentioned that ice cream is my favorite dessert, and I know not everyone thinks an ice cream pie can be a stand alone dessert. Actually, I have no problem adding cookies and brownies to the dessert buffet, and since there’s already a pumpkin something in the mix, they can be chocolate or caramel or mint or anything else, as long as they’re delicious.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie
1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed, and drained pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 baked 9-inch graham cracker crust
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)
Whipped cream to serve (optional)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.
- Scoop the ice cream into a large bowl, then fold the pumpkin mixture into the ice cream.
- Spoon the pumpkin mixture into the piecrust. Use a spatula dipped in water to spread the ice cream smooth. Sprinkle with the nuts and gently press them into the ice cream.
- Chill in the freezer until firm; at least 4 hours.
- About thirty minutes before serving, transfer the pie to the refrigerator to soften slightly. Top with whipped cream, if using.
Note: I’ve come across some pumpkin dessert recipes that I’m planning to make. I’ll post the ones I like. I’ll also post recipes sent in by readers, along with their names. Thanksgiving is the great American holiday. It’s about family, friends and good food. What could be better?
The recipe is from “The Classic Zucchini Cookbook 225 Recipes for All Kinds of Squash” by Nancy D. Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman
Published by Storey Books