As a gesture of appreciation for our guys and gals who have been in the military, and for those currently serving the country while eating sand in hot, dusty places and generally risking their necks for the rest of us (not to mention being far away from their families), I decided to bake a pie for you all. But not just any old pie.
Building on my happiness with the smoked pumpkin experiment, I got a little more ambitious: smoked pumpkin pie. Turning the smoky squash into a soup with bacon was easy; how can you mess up anything that combines smoke with cured pork?
Smoked dessert is more difficult, especially in this case. Pumpkin pie is an old standby, a classic. You load it up on a fork, take a bite, autumn yumminess follows, you gain a few pounds by overindulging, and make a New Year’s resolution two months later that you promptly forget. It’s like clockwork. Tweaking it would be like inventing new Coke, and we all know how that fiasco turned out. Well, those of us who didn’t spend the `80s in diapers do, anyway.
I didn’t just want to throw smoked pumpkin into the mix because I thought it might be too much of a shock to the system. I needed a way to meld the flavors. A mortar for the bricks, so to speak. After some brief research, I came across this recipe for Maple Pumpkin Pie courtesy of Taste of Home. I made a couple of other changes to it by adding cinnamon and nutmeg just to kind of make it my own thing, then got started on my first ever homemade pumpkin pie.
At this point, I promptly ran into a snag. Most pumpkin pies use canned solid-packed pumpkin, which gives the end product that nice smoothness we’ve all come to appreciate. The flesh you scrape out of a large pumpkin is more akin to wet pasta than what you find in a can. No one likes runny pumpkin pie. Luckily, my friend Sam had some experience dealing with scavenged pumpkin meat. On his advice, I strained the pumpkin through some cheese cloth and let it dry until it was damp but not wet, then pureed it until I had the 2 cups called for in the recipe.
That seemed to do the trick but I wouldn’t know for certain until it was served. The smell that came out of the oven was wonderful, and confirmation came when I bit into my first slice of pie. The flavors worked! Between the maple and the brown patina of the smoked pumpkin, I got a pie that was a rich dark brown. It was very sweet, and the maple and smoke really added unique flavor that fit well with the rest of the pie.
Trot this one out for Thanksgiving and see what happens. And in the meantime, thank a veteran for putting it all on the line!
Maple Smoked Pumpkin Pie
2 cups strained and pureed smoked pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
pastry for a 9-inch pie crust
Start by straining the smoked pumpkin to get rid of excess liquid and let it dry a little bit. Puree it in small batches, then combine it with everything but the pie crust and blend it all until smooth. Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until you can insert a knife into the pie one in from the edge and pull the knife out clean. Let it cool for an hour, then chill it in the refrigerator before serving.
Serves: 6 or 8