A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Join the Occu-Pie Movement

Making Pumpkin Pie – from scratch

Sugar-pie pumpkins; a variety bred for sweet, smooth flesh.

Making pumpkin pie from scratch is truly a labor of love! How much easier it is just to open a can of puree. In the spirit of the slow food movement, we start making our pies back in April when we first plant the seeds! The small vines are transplanted into mounds of compost we've made ourselves, mulched, watered and weeded through the summer and harvested by the hundreds of pounds after they get their first kiss of frost.

This year, pie-making took place over two full days! From two Provence pumpkins (they're the big lobe-y ones in the picture to the left that look like Cinderella's coach!) we made enough filling for 23 pies! The fillings are stacked neatly in our freezer and will make it easy, over the next few months, to thaw and bake up this delicious and nutritious reminder of the garden's bounty.

Provence, Buttercups and Sweetmeats.
When you're planning your garden for next season, consider sketching out enough space for plenty of winter-squash. Winter squash are the varieties that have a harder skin and store well for enjoyment all through the winter.  "Pumpkins" are just a variety of the larger category of "squash". Pumpkin pie filling can be made from sugar-pie pumpkins, or any kind of sweet, golden-meat type of squash. Delicata, Buttercup and Sweetmeat are all good varieties. If its too late to grow your own this year, or you don't have room in your garden next year, look for these varieties at your local market. Sometimes we combine two types of squash/pumpkin to make one batch of filling. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are not good to use as they are not bred for sweetness and the meat can be quite stringy. Our current favorite is the Provence pumpkin, an heirloom variety that has the sweetest meat we’ve found. It tends to grow quite large so it provides filling for many pies but, because they tend to be so big, they're not often grown commercially (most people can't use that much squash before it goes bad) so, if you want a Provence, you'll probably have to grow your own.

We make many batches of filling at once and freeze them. If you’re going to mess up the kitchen, you might as well make it worth it! Be sure you have plenty of all the ingredients you’ll need on hand. Or, you can also bake the squash and freeze it in 2-cup batches plain, using it much like you'd use a can of store-bought puree.

To bake the squash: 
The Provence is one of our favorites for pie.
Preheat oven to 375
Wash pumpkin/squash and dry skin 
Cut it open: Use a stout, sharp knife on a table or counter low enough that you can use the weight of your upper body to quarter the squash.  Doing it on the floor might even be easiest. 

Use a strong metal spoon to scrape out seeds and loose pulp/strings. You can put the seeds and pulp outside to feed birds and squirrels or separate the seeds, oil, salt and bake them. You probably won't want to save the seeds for planting, unless you're certain that they haven't "crossed" with other varieties. 

Cut into smaller pieces: Though it can be quite a challenge to cut these large, winter squash into smaller pieces for baking, you’ll be rewarded with a much shorter cooking time.

Orange, sweet flesh, yum!!
Place squash with skin facing up in a baking pan that has sides that are at least a two-inches deep. Many squash give off quite a lot of juice and can make a mess in your oven if the juice spills over the side of the pan. A roasting pan is ideal.

Bake squash/pumpkin for one hour, or until a fork pokes easily, deep into the flesh.

Once done, allow to cool. Scoop flesh out of the skin and compost the skin.  If you’ve chosen one of the juicier squashes, you’ll have best results by putting the flesh in a large colander over a bowl to drain any excess juice. The juice makes a delicious soup stock. Note: Delicata squash have tender skins that can be eaten along with the flesh, saving you an extra step (just use your food processor: skins and all).

To make the pie filling:

Sydney w/ a Provence
In a food processor, combine:

2 cups squash/pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup soy milk (or cow’s milk, almond or coconut milk)
2 TBSP powdered milk (or soy protein powder)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt

2 eggs (leave these out if you are freezing multiple batches)

Puree till smooth

Pour into your favorite pie shell and bake for 1 hour at 375 or until lightly browned.

To freeze filling for later:

Combine everything except the eggs. Make one batch at a time. Each batch is a little less than a quart so you can put it in your favorite freezer-containers. We use qt-size plastic zip-lock bags. Label them with blue, painter’s masking tape (it won’t come off in the freezer and you can peel it off after you empty the bag, wash the bag and re-use it.) I always write a reminder on the label to add two eggs. Lay the bags flat and you can easily stack many of them in your freezer.

When you want to make a pie, thaw the filling, add the eggs and use a blender, a mixer or food processor to mix it all well. By mixing in the eggs right before baking, you’ll have a fluffier, more pudding-like pie. Bake as above.

If you run out of any ingredients, before you've used up your squash, just freeze bags of the plain squash puree' and add the other ingredients right before baking.

James and Jaye holding Buttercups; a drier, sweet, golden squash.
Flaky Rolled Pie Crust – YIELD: Two pies without top shells

2 cups whole wheat or unbleached pastry flour
1 scant tsp. salt
½ cup oil (chilled is best) - use something mild to the taste like sunflower or safflower oils. Don't use olive oil or sesame.
¼ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt. Pour the oil and water into a cup but don’t stir. Mix with the flour. Press into a ball. Cut into halves. Place between two sheets of 12-inch waxed paper. Dampen a tabletop to prevent slipping. Roll out until the circle of dough reaches the edge of the paper. Peel off top paper and place the crust face down in a pie tin. Peel off the other paper and press dough into tin.

Llyn, w/ Sugar-pie pumpkins.


  1. What handsome folks you use as models for your blogspots. They remind me of the stars.

    1. Hi Buddy - thanks for the poetic comment :-) Did you mean that we looked like movie stars, or the stars in the heavens (I kinda like being compared to the latter ). Llyn

  2. You are a shining star! I love you and the work of your hands and heart!

    1. It takes one to know one! Thanks for all the beautiful ways you contribute to making our world a better place. Love, Llyn


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