Start with anything orange then add something sweet, something creamy, some spices and something to make it stay together – voila! – ‘pumpkin pie’
Libby’s canned foods taught the whole country one way to make pumpkin pie when they first printed their canned pumpkin and condensed milk recipe on the label in 1950. The recipe remained the same until just last year when they added carnation sweetened condensed milk instead of sugar for a creamier texture.
My flexible recipe is designed for many ways to make a pumpkin pie. It can be made as a special holiday treat with extra cream and sugar, or a savory breakfast pie using more healthy squash. My method is to blend the orange squash, creamy liquid, sweetener and spices then taste for flavor, make adjustments and add something to make it solidify into pie. Use an electric blender to blend well and pour into pie crust or straight into custard cups or a baking pan if you want to skip the crust.
“Pumpkin Pie” can be made using any orange flesh vegetable – pumpkin is traditional, butternut and acorn squash are richer in flavor and sweet potato is rich in flavor and easy to cook from scratch because you don’t have to cut up a whole squash. What do you have around the house that is orange and fleshy to make a pie? Baking the squash or sweet potato will make the flavor richer as the oven concentrates the flavors. Steaming on the stove top is fast and easy.
Start with 4 cups of cooked, mashed orange vegetable plus creamy liquid. The traditional Libby's recipe is about 2 cups pumpkin plus 2 cups condensed milk. I like to use 3 cups mashed squash or sweet potato plus 1 cup heavy cream or coconut cream (the kind used in Thai cooking). You can play with flavors and textures by using anything creamy or flavorful - heavy cream, coconut milk, nut creamer, oat milk, or even apple sauce or orange juice for part of the liquid. In the end you just want equal or more orange squash/sweet potato to the other liquid. If you have 6 cups of mash instead of 4, do the math and increase the rest of the recipe by half.
Add Spices Galore – for 4 cups mash add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon salt and 2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice – (pumpkin pie spice is 1 teaspoon cinnamon plus ½ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon clove and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon allspice) Vanilla, nutmeg and allspice are optional; it’ll still taste like pie without them.
Add Sweetener – Granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or a bit of molasses. Libby’s recipe used ¾ cup white sugar for 4 cups mash plus the sweet flavor already in the condensed milk. At different times I have used ½ cup maple syrup, ½ cup dark brown sugar or 1/3 cup honey. Once I actually cooked down the water from steaming sweet potatoes until it was a thick sweet syrup and used that for a no sweetener added sweet potato pie. Each squash will vary in sweetness so it’s helpful to taste your mixture here and adjust with more spice or sweet as needed.
Add The Solidifier – Now your blender is full of rich flavorful orange mash with something creamy, something sweet and some spices. It is time to add the solidifier to turn it from mash to pie. For every 4 cups mash use 2 eggs or 2 tablespoons gelatin or 2 teaspoons agar and blend well to fill 1 pie pan. Eggs make a nicer custard that puffs up, but gelatin is convenient for egg allergies and agar can be used for a vegetarian option. The gelatin and agar won’t puff up, but you have to see little bubbles of a simmer in the oven for at least 10 minutes – it will still be liquid when removed from the oven and will solidify as it cools. Bake at 425° F for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350° for 50 minutes or until it puffs up with eggs or simmers for a full 10 minutes or more if gelatin or agar. Cool on racks.
Pie Crust Options
Use custard cups or a large glass baking pan for your pumpkin custard and skip the crust.
Gluten free nut based crust – 1 ½ cups ground nuts (walnuts or pecans) 2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee and 2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional). Blend well and mash into the bottom of the pie pan using the firm bottom of a small measuring cup.
Fannie Farmers tart pastry crust – 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ cup cold butter in small pieces, 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons ice water. The trick to this recipe is keeping everything cold and ‘cutting’ the mixture together instead of mashing. Blend all ingredients, adding water slowly as you might not need it all. Roll using a rolling pin on a floured surface and line a 9 inch pie crust. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust before filling with pie filling.
*Check out my other Mix 'n' Match Holiday recipes
*Fannie Farmer is my basic bible of a cookbook. All of the recipes are as simple as possible which allows me to start with her basic recipes and expand in my own creativity.