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Dorothy Grover-Read/The New Vintage Kitchen

When she was 7 years old, my granddaughter made a beautiful pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, using the canned pumpkin and the traditional Libby’s recipe with a few extra spices. The pumpkin pie lovers loved it!

Food and Drink / Column

You might have to take a poll

The people who love pumpkin pie loved the traditional canned pumpkin pie best. The folks who don’t preferred the squash pie — not that it would be a first choice.

Dorothy Grover-Read’s culinary talents can be found on her blog “The New Vintage Kitchen” (vintagekitchen.org), billed as “[a] Vermont innkeeper’s collection of classics reimagined for today’s kitchen.” Her column has regularly appeared in The Commons’ Food & Drink section, mostly on hiatus during the pandemic.

BELLOWS FALLS—We’re all thinking about our Thanksgiving menus this week, including the important pies and desserts to please everyone around the table.

I have rarely made a pumpkin pie from scratch, and when I have (once) it did not turn out as good as my mother’s.

Couple that with the fact I’m not a pumpkin pie lover, there has been little experimentation in my house, although I make one every year for those who think it isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. I use the canned pumpkin with no apologies, and they are happy.

When I was going through my mother’s recipes, I found squash pie, which I remember she often made, and it tasted just like pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie recipe? It was a recipe from the back of the pumpkin can! Her squash recipe used fresh squash.

Hmm. What did she know that it took me years to figure out?

I looked up pumpkin pie recipes from some of the cookbooks from the 1930s and ’40s, and they often listed “Pumpkin or Squash Pie” as one recipe. Obviously, they were used interchangeably, but it was odd that my mom made her pumpkin pie with canned pumpkin, but her squash pie from fresh squash.

There are a lot of stories and explanations out there on the internet about whether canned pumpkin is actually squash. In the past, I’ve grown an heirloom pumpkin that looked more like butternut squash and a squash that looked just like a pumpkin!

While it doesn’t really matter — since it is all the same family — the fact is, the pumpkin (or squash) that’s canned for pie filling is not the jack-o-lantern “pie pumpkins” that we see for sale this time of year but a different variety altogether.

Recently, I decided to make a scratch “pumpkin” pie using squash, as well as one from canned pumpkin and see what my family and friends thought. I couldn’t find the heirloom squash I was looking for, so I decided on what was available: a butternut squash. I chose the brand of organic canned pumpkin I always use: Farmer’s Market Foods.

Of course, as always, I couldn’t just leave it at that; I added a few things not in my mom’s recipe: black pepper, cayenne, a little crystalized ginger to top it off. I also used my rosemary lemon pastry crust, and it worked well in this recipe, according to the pumpkin pie lovers.

The result? The people who love pumpkin pie loved the traditional canned pumpkin pie best. The folks, including me, who don’t? We preferred the squash pie, not that it would be first choice for any of us.

Plan accordingly for your holiday gathering. You might have to take a poll.

For me? I’ll be eating the lemon meringue, tart, extra meringue.

Imposter Pumpkin Pie

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

On a rimmed baking sheet, place:

¶1 medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the squash is soft.

Scoop out the flesh, puree in a food processor or blender, and reserve 2 cups for this recipe. The rest can be frozen.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine:

¶{1/2} cup white sugar

¶{1/4} cup brown sugar

¶1 tsp. cinnamon

¶{1/2} tsp. ginger

¶{1/4} tsp. cloves

¶{1/2} tsp. salt

¶{1/8} tsp. cayenne pepper

¶{1/4} tsp. black pepper

In a large bowl, beat:

¶2 eggs

¶1 can evaporated milk

¶2 cups squash purée

¶2 tsp. vanilla extract

Add the sugar mixture, and mix well.

Pour into pie plate lined with:

¶1 rosemary lemon pastry crust, or favorite recipe

Place on a baking dish, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the pie is set except for a little jiggle in the center.

Cool for 4 hours or overnight.

Top with:

¶1 Tbsp. candied ginger, chopped

¶Lemon zest

Serve with whipped cream if desired. Or cut yourself a slice of lemon meringue and find a corner.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #640 (Wednesday, November 24, 2021). This story appeared on page B1.

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