I was lugging a wheelbarrow full of hay and manure into the garden when the weather changed. The air was warm and still, and seemed to hang like a muggy curtain around the pea trellis and rows of young cabbages, lettuce, and broccoli as i trundled clumsily along the narrow path.
A sound almost like the roaring of a river, or a crowd in thunderous applause came from high up in the tops of the trees. The branches were whipped in circles and trembled, the trees bowed and dipped, looking like a row of laughing people. And suddenly I felt a swirl of cold, cold air from high up, smelling of another place far away, fragrant and pungent all at once like sagebrush and cedar.
Shortly after that it began to rain, and then followed two days of grim grey skies and pooling water on the deck that felt like the snow melt torrents of the alps on my bare feet. Sometimes it misted, sometimes it drizzled, and sometimes it poured, but always water came from the sky, nearly threatening our cozy dryness next to the stove in the kitchen.
Not nice weather to be caught outside in, though i did manage to seed some lettuce and herbs in the garden in between milking and drizzles. It was perfect weather for a pie, a sweet, rich pie with lots of spice, an old-fashioned pie, where nothing comes from a can.
Old-fashioned Pumpkin Pie
For the filling:
1 medium pumpkin, a good pie variety with sweet and starchy flesh like Seminole pumpkins, cassaba pumpkins, buttercup, Hubbards, or butternut squash
3/4 cup honey
A pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup cream
1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits (save the seeds for a crunchy snack). Roast the halves in the oven at 350F, for about 30 minutes or more, until very tender and starting to caramelize.
2. When the pumpkin is cool, scoop out out of the shell with a spoon, and measure out 2 cups, packing the spoonfuls of pumpkin into a cup measure.
3. Put the 2 cups of cooked pumpkin in a blender or food processor with all other ingredients, and blend until smooth and homogenous.
Now for the pie crust:
I start with a good-sized mixing bowl. I dump what looks like about 4 cups of flour into it. I add a generous pinch of salt, the kind of pinch you use the flats of three of your fingers for instead of the tips of thumb and forefinger.
Next I add a hunk of butter about the size of a good-sized egg, the size of a mature laying hen, not a pullet egg. I work the butter into the flour with my fingers, crumbling it into the flour.
I know it has enough butter worked it when it looks like bread crumbs but when i squeeze it in my fist it clings together in a dry, crumbly clod. I leave large crumbs for flaky texture, and small crumbs for tenderness.
Now I add a splash of cream cold from the fridge, or maybe milk if we are short on cream. Sometimes water of there is no milk, but that’s like starvation rations. You won’t get as good of a pie crust with water. I add it very careful, so the dough won’t get too wet, kneading gently with my hands as I add it just a little splash at a time. Maybe I’ll add a little flour again if i accidentally put to big a splash in and the dough is too wet. It should be a rich, buttery dough that won’t stick to your hands and works easily.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, so it’s a few inches wider than your pie pan. Fold it carefully into quarters to move it over to the pie pan, and even more carefully unfold it. Press it into the pan, trim the edges, and crimp them, if you like.
Pour the pie filling into the crust. You can also cut shapes out of the extra pastry dough to lay carefully on top of the filing:
Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes, or until the filling is set.