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Cooking Pear and Pumpkin Pie

My small kitchen garden produces a terrific crop of winter squash—particularly butternut squash and neck pumpkins. In most years, it also produces a half bushel or more of pears. This year I decided to get the two together and developed Pear and Pumpkin Pie.

This pie combines classic creamy pumpkin custard and sweet, poached pears to deliver a delicious and seasonally-appropriate alternative to classic pumpkin pie. It’s a bit more work than pumpkin pie, but it’s worth it. My blog entry, Pumpkin and Pear Post Produce, explains a bit more about my inspiration for this pie.

Before You Start

Here is a list of ingredients you’ll need before you create my Pear and Pumpkin Pie.

My entry in October’s Post Produce is about pie. The pie involves pears and homemade raisins–both visible in this photo. I hope you’ll join me and bloggers everywhere on Saturday, the 22nd to share whatever you’re consuming from your own garden.

Filling:

1 small winter squash

5 or 6 ripe pears

½ cup raisins (homemade, if you can manage)

2 eggs

¼ cup milk or cream

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup salad oil

2 and ½ tablespoons milk

pinch of salt

Instructions in the photo captions explain how the ingredients go together. The captions include alternatives and shortcuts to encourage you to make a pie that suits your own sensibilities. If you make a Pear and Pumpkin Pie, please let me know what you think of it!

Cut off the stem end of the squash and slice it down the middle lengthwise. Then remove the seeds and cut the squash into chunks. Mine seem to have been ½ inch thick and an inch long. Put the chunks in a cooking pot and cover them with water. Finally, cover the pot and set it to simmer over low heat until the squash is soft. This may take 20 to 40 minutes.

Cut up and core the pears. Make your first cut from end-to-end through the center of the fruit. Then cut each half in half lengthwise. Slice out the hard material where the stem extends into the fruit, and cut out the seeds and seed chambers. If you want to remove the skins, this is a good time to do it; I leave the skins on because they contain roughage and you really don’t notice them when you eat the pie later. Cut the pear quarters in half lengthwise and cut each segment in to four pieces. It will take five or six pears to get about four cups of pear chunks.

Melt the butter (optional) in a medium-sized skillet. Then add the brown sugar and mix it into the butter. Turn the heat to high, and add the pears, stirring to coat them with sugar. As juice accumulates in the pan, lower the heat so the liquid boils lightly. Let the pears simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

In the last five minutes of simmering, add the raisins to the pears, and stir. Then pour off as much liquid as you can from the cooked pear mixture. You’ll mix this liquid into the pumpkin custard that you’ll make in a few minutes. Set the pears aside to cool, and set the reserved juices aside.

You can puree the cooked squash if you like, but I just pour off the water and then let my stand mixer beat the squash chunks into paste. However you manage it, combine the mashed squash (or pumpkin) with the liquid salvaged from the cooked pears.

Mix 2 tablespoons of flower with 2 tablespoons of white sugar and stir in pumpkin pie seasonings. For one pie, I use ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves, and ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger. Beat this into the pumpkin mixture, mix in two eggs, and blend in ¼ cup of milk or cream. Set the mixture aside until your pie shell is ready to fill.

Sure, you can buy a pre-fab pie shell, but try this approach to making crust and you might never again buy pre-fab. This would be a good time to heat the oven; set the temperature to 425 degrees so it heats while you’re building the pie.

For a single pie shell with no top crust, measure a cup of flour into a bowl and add about 1/8 teaspoon of salt; stir it through the flour. Measure ¼ cup of salad oil and add to it 2 and ½ tablespoons of milk. Don’t mix these! Instead, pour them together into the flour, and gently mix until all the flour is wet.

Gather the pie crust dough and gently pack it into a sphere. Place a sheet of waxed paper on a smooth surface and set the dough in the center. Flatten the ball with the palm and heel of your hand, and then cover the dough with a second sheet of waxed paper. Roll the dough into a circle with a diameter equal to the width of the waxed paper.

Peel one of the sheets of waxed paper off of the flattened dough. Then flip the dough—still stuck to waxed paper—over onto an empty pie pan. Slide the dough around until you center it on the pan, then peel off the second sheet of waxed paper. Ease the dough down into the pan so it hugs the bottom and sides.

Trim the dough flush with the edge of the pie pan. Then pinch the dough against your thumb (as shown in the center above) repeatedly to flute the pie’s edges. Set the pie shell on a baking pan to catch drips, and pour in the pumpkin custard mixture. Reserve just a bit of custard to add later; the pie shell should be about half full of custard.

Add the cooked pear and raisin mixture to the custard in the pie shell. Distribute the fruit evenly throughout the custard, and finish by pouring the last bit of custard on top. You need not submerge all the fruit; if you do, the pie may look like all other pumpkin pies in the world.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and let the pie continue to bake for 40 more minutes or until it’s done. Check it by gently bumping the baking pan holding the pie; if the entire custard filling is firm and moves with the pie crust, the pie is ready. If you notice some of the custard sloshing or jiggling while other areas appear firm, the pie needs to cook some more.

When it finishes baking, let the pie cool for a few hours, and then keep it in the refrigerator. If you prefer, heat it a bit before serving.

 

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