Friday, November 20, 2009


by Pat Gulley

Yes, it’s that time of the year when two big cooking (and for some much more) events are upon us. And the newspapers, magazines, blogs and Tweets are full of Quick and Easy and much faster ways to make ‘traditional’ foods. Uh huh! Right. Substituting cheese pie for Cheese Cake, to me, has always been a crime. Sure it can be tasty, but NOT when you are expecting real cheese cake and instead you get premade graham cracker crust and cool whip topping. Oh pie made with canned pumpkin in a pie and that ghastly (to me, to me) of all stuff, evaporated milk.

So let’s hear it for hard recipes, ones that takes a great deal of time and can wear you down to the bone just getting the ingredients prepared. Okay, I’m not going to go off on a tangent and ask you to go out and shoot your own turkey or cure your own ham—though there is the possibility that some of you do that—but I will recommend a fresh turkey over frozen any day. No, no comments on the bird. I’d rather stick with the important part of the menu—Dessert!!!

Okay, so I’ve said enough about cheese cake. Let’s just talk about that old faithful, Pumpkin Pie, which can be reinterpreted with sweet potatoes and a multitude of different squashes.

First let me say this. Remember in the movie Julie and Julia when Julia was trying to get her cookbook published by a New York publisher, and even though all the men were enthusiastic about it, it was still suggested that she get some recipes in there that called for fast box mixes and canned goods? Remember that? They implied that the American Woman could not cope with anything else? Remember that? In the movie and the book, it made me boiling mad. Anyway, that’s what I now think of when a recipe says ‘canned pumpkin’. What’s so hard about using fresh pumpkin? Sure it’s time consuming, so what? Aren’t there a ton of them around after Halloween all going to waste? Sure some get totally ruined by all the candle wax and sitting out in the elements for weeks, but some don’t and if you are not into wasting food, here’s a good way not to. All you have to do is slice the pumpkin up, cut off bad parts, do not peel, and boil until soft in a large pot. Remove softened pieces with a slotted spoon to a colander, and keep adding water to pot for additional pieces until done. When cool, the soft pulp easily comes off the skin with a table spoon. This can be done with any of the three colors of Acorn Squashes—dark green, pumpkin orange and pure white—and they taste great. Just mash the pulp with a potato masher for a richer texture and taste, or, if you must, puree it. All my pumpkin pie eaters prefer fresh and fibrous now and sneer at the canned stuff as much as those frozen pies in the frozen food cases.

And of course you can do the same with sweet potato pie. What’s the secret to the best sweet potato pie in the world???? Use Yams!!!!! And instead of that yucky evaporated milk, use half-and-half. Of course, 2 tablespoons of brandy or rum will do any of these pies a world of good. And if you prefer a touch of tanginess, try using sour cream, or part sour cream and part real milk. I’ve seen a Fanny Farmer recipe that requires buttermilk and lemon juice. I might try that one of these days. I even found one that called for sweetened condensed milk. WOW, was that sweet, you could barely tasted the squash.

All these squashes and potatoes use the same recipe, though when I tried sweetmeat squash, it was really too soft for a normal recipe. You have to adjust the recipe as it does not thicken like the harder squashes. ADD FLOUR!!!!! Not a chance!

You’ll notice that there is no recipe provided, that’s because I have great faith that all of you know where to lay your hands on one, and can improvise like the clever and great improviser I’m sure you are. But if not, email me off list.

I was also going to discuss recipes in general, and how I’ve never met one I wasn’t sure I could make better if I changed it in some way, but maybe another time.

PS, I was watching the cooking channel last night and fresh pumpkin was also suggested, however this cook used the small sugar pumpkins and she baked hers. I guess you can do that instead of boiling. Frankly, it sounds too easy.
So, anyone looking forward to trying hard and time consuming over fast and easy this T-day?


Annette said...

I actually DID make a pumpkin pie from real pumpkin once. Years ago. I guess the problem is I don't really LIKE pumpkin pie, be it real or processed. I know. Admitting that borders on being unAmerican. But my family doesn't mind. More for them. Anyhow, if I'm going to go through the time, effort and mess of cooking from scratch, it had darned well be something I LOVE.

Cheesecake for example. I haven't tackled that one, though.

Joyce Tremel said...

I HATE pumpkin anything. My nephew brewed a batch of pumpkin beer that he's bringing to Deep Creek, but I'm not sure I can even taste that. Yuck.

I try to avoid cooking for Thanksgiving whenever possible. Any years that we stay home, I make a turkey breast, otherwise most of it would go to waste. This year, I'm making the apple pies. I'm happy to turn the bird, potatoes, and stuffing over to my sisters.

There are a couple of things I make from scratch. My spaghetti sauce is better than anything you get from a jar. I also make muffins from scratch. It's really not any harder than using a mix.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

While I like to cook, especially on the grill, I'd rather plunk my ass down and be the judge (otherwise known as eat) whilst letting everyone else toil in the kitchen.

It sounds ridiculous, but the best turkey I ever did happened to be a year I decided to smoke my bird. Yep, I know how that sounds. I had just bought an electric smoker and somewhere around the 150 degrees (internal temperature)mark unknownst to me the coil of my new smoker crapped out. I have no idea how long it sat there cooking at an ambient 45 degrees.

I was panicked. I had a crowd already in the house with big expectations of my fabulous smoked turkey. I couldn't bring him inside to finish since the oven was stuffed with stuffing and other things. So I lit the gas grill and shoved him in. I only looked away for a couple of minutes and when I turned around the fires of Hades appeared and engulfed the 22 pound bird. I swear the flames were shooting up 10 feet when I opened the lid. To this day I wake up in cold sweats hearing that Turkey crying for help.

By the time I got the damn thing off the grill, I had no arm hair left and the crisp shriveled turkey skin that was left wouldn't cover a Robin. I got things under control, turned the grill down very low and finished cooking him. After the insta-roast technique I just invented, it didn't take all that long.

I have no idea why or how, but that was the best damn turkey I ever ate. I got rave reviews and a few questions about where the skin was. I wouldn't recommend the recipe though.

Interestingly my verification word was "Drake."

PatRemick said...

All this talk is making me hungry!

Jenna said...

The best turkey I ever had was deep fried. And I don't like pumpkin pie, either. Probably a non-American thing; I feel the same way about peanut butter. I'll eat a piece of pumpkin pie if someone puts one in front of me and I have to be polite, but I don't serve them. Obviously I don't make them. And pretty much everything I cook is canned, boxed, or bagged. Whoever invented microwave-steamable vegetables is a hero in my book. (Yes, I do steam my own fresh broccoli, but otherwise, I pop stuff in the microwave. As long as it's the steam-fresh stuff.) I do bake from scratch, though. Muffins, brownies, scones, cream buns, you name it.

I need to go eat some breakfast now.

Gina said...

I like pumpkin pie, but the only times I've made it from scratch it came out bitter and stringy. I do have a great recipe for cranberry pie, though, that uses both fresh and dried cranberries.

I love to cook, but don't ask me about turkey. I'm vegetarian.

Dale Ivan Smith said...

I pretty much love any form of pumpkin pie but your comments about using fresh ingredients have my mouth watering. Yum!

Patg said...

Frankly, I DO prefer Yam pie over pumpkin, but I make a lot of pumpkin from leftover pumpkins for a lot of neighbors.
Good thing I didn't mention making your own mincemeat. What an ordeal! Only did that once. Fresh apple pie--yeah, to die for.
Wilfred, your turkey story was very funny.
On the cooking channel last night I saw a turkey roasted in a brine or marinaded soaked piece of cheese cloth. That one surprised the judges.
My southern in laws roasted the turkey then poured the cornbread stuffing around it to cook like Yorkshire pudding. I hated stuffing until I tasted that version.

Joyce Tremel said...

Pat, you'd like my family's stuffing. Very fattening. Real butter, onions, celery, sausage, bread cubes, sage, etc. I tried to make it low fat one year, but it wasn't the same.

Patg said...

Frankly, the thought of low fat for the holidays is like trying to make us believe Santa is thin, muscular and svelt. NOT the right image!

Anonymous said...

Had two tiny glasses of pumpkin egg nog today. Delicious. I would like two slices of your pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top Pat. Thank you.

Jo P.