Pumpkin Pie has not been traditionally eaten in Ireland and is historically baked around the festivities for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States and Canada. It is however, becoming a more popular Halloween dish here in recent years, as many coffee shops and restaurants have been adding this sweet, mousse-like dessert dish to their seasonal menu.
The original Jack O’Lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets and this has been a popular tradition here for centuries! Immigrants from Ireland brought the Jack O’Lantern tradition with them when they went to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect Jack O’Lanterns.
So, I am going to add another little piece of Ireland to the Halloween story, by flavouring my Pumpkin Pie with a little Jameson Irish Whiskey. You can use whichever brand is your own favourite!
There are many many types of pumpkin, some are good for eating and some are not! The big Halloween carved pumpkin that you see each year was bred especially for carving, with it’s tough thick skin and fibrous flesh. Pumpkins grown to be eaten tend to be heavier because they have more flesh inside. The veg shops and supermarkets sell smaller pumpkins like the French Rouge Vif d’Etampes, also known as the “Cinderella Pumpkin” (it got its nickname from it’s the fairy tale carriage). One of the common pumpkins on sale here in Ireland, that is used for cooking, is called a “Becky” Pumpkin.
The first recorded recipe for “modern” pumpkin pie was published as a ‘Pompkin Pudding’ in 1796, in a book called American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. This cookbook is considered the first Cookery Book to be published by an American, in America. Only four copies of the first edition are known to exist!
A pumpkin pie is made, more or less, in the same way as a baked cheesecake or a custard tart and is flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and ginger. If you’ve never eaten a pumpkin pie, you could be excused for thinking that it might taste like a savoury vegetable quiche - but it’s really more like a cheesecake in a pastry crust! The gingernut biscuits add flavour and also help to make the base crunchier. The evaporated milk gives a richness to the pie and the Irish whiskey works just perfectly with the spices to give it a yummy warming taste sensation!
It’s very simple to make and once you have the pumpkin purée made, the rest of it comes together quickly and easily. In the US, they buy canned puréed pumpkin for use in cooking.
You can make this recipe at any time of year by substituting butternut squash or sweet potato instead of pumpkin. Their texture and taste are almost the same when flavoured and cooked!
This makes one 10” x 1.5” Pumpkin Pie.
To make the Pumpkin Puree:
Cut a medium-sized pumpkin into wedges and discard all the seeds. Cook the pumpkin in the microwave on high power for 12 minutes. Scrape off all the cooked flesh and purée it quickly in a blender until smooth. (If you are using canned pumpkin purée you’ll need to spoon this onto a clean tea-towel and squeeze away as much liquid as possible.) You’ll need 400g pumpkin purée for the pie.
250g Plain Flour
75g Demerara Sugar
1 medium egg
a little Cold Water
100g crushed Gingernut Biscuits
1. Rub the butter into the flour until it’s like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in. Break in the egg and quickly pull the pastry together adding a little cold water if needed. Roll it out and line a floured 10” pie dish (about 1.5 “ deep). Trim off any extra pastry.
2. Crumb the gingernut biscuits in a blender or by placing them in a sandwich bag and rolling them with a rolling pin until fine. Sprinkle the biscuit-crumb over the pastry base, pat it down and refrigerate until needed.
Crush the gingernut biscuits and gently press them onto the sweet pastry
3 Medium Eggs
160g Light Brown Sugar
1x 410g can Evaporated Milk
1 tspn ground Cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground Ginger
A pinch of ground Cloves
1/2 tspn Salt
400g Pumpkin Purée
35ml Irish Whiskey
1. Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them well by hand. Add the brown sugar and mix in for 30 seconds until they’re thick and creamy. Add the can of evaporated milk and mix well for about 30 seconds.
2. Add the pumpkin purée along with all the flavourings and mix everything together until smooth. Lastly add the whiskey and stir it into the filling.
I have no cheffy logic behind the mixing and stirring by hand. Sometimes it’s just relaxing and therapeutic to slow down and do it all by hand!
3. Carefully pour the mix into your pie dish and tap the side of the dish a few times to help raise the air bubbles to the top. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 160°C for 40 minutes.
4. Check the pie as you would when testing a sponge cake. It should be soft, but responsive to the touch, when it’s cooked - giving you a little spring in the centre when gently pushed down. Leave the pie aside, in the dish to set, until cold.
5. To turn it out, put a flat plat on top, turn it over tap the bottom of the baking tin and lift up gently. Now put your serving plate on the bottom of the pie and turn it back over.
I must admit, this was the first pumpkin pie I ever made - and it was delicious! A little dollop of fresh cream went down a treat with my Irish Whiskey Pumpkin Pie - as did the extra “wee doodley” (as they call a sneaky shot of whiskey around Donegal Town). Give it a try and enjoy!
See www.IrishFoodguide.ie for more from Zack.