‘Tis the season of orange – pumpkins pile everywhere on this peninsula, in fields, on doorsteps, at the Farmer’s Market – bringing an orange haze to the season of Jack o’lanterns.
Before we moved here that is pretty much all a pumpkin meant to me – something to carve with the kids to get ready for visitors expected in the evening on a chilly Alaska doorstep, when parkas and wool hats peeked from under princess dresses and space helmets.
But now I cook pumpkins, and we are also likely to be infused with an orange-tinted, beta-carotene glow. Pie pumpkins are small, but one pumpkin purchased on Saturday led happily to pumpkin muffins on Sunday, pumpkin pie on Monday, and pumpkin soup on Tuesday.
To get the pumpkin ready to use, I cut it in half and baked at 350° face down in a little water until tender. A small pumpkin yields a surprising amount of pumpkin when it’s scooped from the collapsed shell. After baking, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days (and I’ve read you can also freeze it.)
I made the pie late in the afternoon of a workday not for any particular event, but because there was pumpkin (and farm fresh eggs). My favorite recipe (from Red Dog Farm) calls for a cup and three-quarters of cooked pumpkin, two lightly beaten eggs, a cup of milk, half cup of honey, and spices (a teaspoon of cinnamon, half teaspoon of ginger and eighth teaspoon of cloves). Mix all together and pour into an unbaked shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, turn the heat down, and bake an hour or more till no jiggles in the middle of the pie. (Out of curiosity I made a Deborah Madison piecrust using oil – interesting.)
Humming like hobbits, we ate slices right out of the oven (making an event of a dark Monday night). My good-natured husband was decidedly good-natured at this turn of events and suggested we share.
So we took pieces to our friends down the bluff, “a spontaneous pie delivery” as my friend called it later.
It’s cozy in the house with candles and lamps and shades drawn, but outside was Halloween dark! I clutched the still-warm pie on a plate covered with foil and walked in the light cast by my husband’s headlamp, a bobbling blue circle on the gravel road. Occasionally the woods rustled, but mostly the night was silent and moonless.
Light from our friends’ windows shone like houses come upon in rural darkness do – a sudden bright warmth. Beyond their house, diffused by a film of fog across the water, Victoria lighted the horizon.
It felt good to walk home after our delivery – crunch up the gravel and approach our house with lights aglow. When we opened the door, we knew by the fragrance – “Somebody’s been baking a pie in here!”