Consider the pumpkin: big, orange, makes good pies and great Halloween decorations (but we’re past that holiday so this blog is all about the pies). 90- 95% of all the pumpkins grown commercially are grown in Illinois and processed at the Libby’s plant in Morton. My former in-laws used to reside in Morton so I have been there in my not-too-wide travels. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the literal mountains of pumpkins waiting to be turned into cans full of orange pulp. When Illinois failed to get enough rain one year, the entire country teetered on the brink of a pumpkin pie shortage!
The early colonists somehow used pumpkin as an ingredient in the pie crust, not as pie filling. I’m glad we evolved beyond that. Messy, wouldn’t fit in my oven or my refrigerator… I learned to bake pumpkin pies at the age of 7 because my mother hated to bake and only made one lemon meringue pie per year, for my Dad, and one birthday cake each for my brother and me. My neighbor, who grew and canned her own pumpkins, made the best pumpkin pie so I hiked over there one day in the snowy cold (we had long driveways in rural New York). She very patiently taught me the tricks in her cozy farmhouse kitchen.
Three words for the perfect crust – icy well water. No offense to Libby’s, but I think the best pies I ever ate were the ones made from Betty C’s homegrown, home canned pumpkins, with eggs from her own chickens (man, I HATED getting the eggs out of those nests – chickens are mean) and raw milk from their herd of dairy cows.
I still make pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I give some away to friends who like pie baked from scratch and I eat way more pie than I really should. The taste and smell always takes me home again, back to that warm, friendly kitchen. I’m thankful for many things in November but especially for the good friends and neighbors, like Betty C!