Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Thanksgiving Recipes: Sweet Potato Pie Recipe for a Pumpkin Shortage

November 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Editor’s note: Readers, I’m asking for your recipes now through the winter holidays. Send them to me by clicking on “Contact” above, and emailing them to me. We’ll print many of these, and maybe send you a cookbook as a reward!

It’s the Great Pumpkin Shortage, Charlie Brown!

pumpkinpieMy oh, my! No pumpkin? Mother Nature foils our pie plans!

 I had to scramble this morning, resorting to Facebook to help me find someone who had an extra can of pumpkin to make pies for my son’s fire station’s feast.

I finally got a can from a neighbor, but retail shelves remained empty. I had been to several stores Tuesday night, looking for it, and came up with one can of pumpkin pie filling at Winn-Dixie, where the manager said he had gotten one late case of pumpkin, but it was already gone. Pie filling is not pure pumpkin only. We almost-purists (we don’t bake our own pumpkins, and they’re as hard to find, too) want to put our own sugar and spice and goodies in it.

Pumpkin crop way off

We were warned, early in the fall, that the pumpkin crop was low this year, with weather cited as the cause. But like grasshoppers running around fiddling instead of stocking up, we were left, as many cooks were, eyeing the frozen or store-made pies. (Costco has the best of those, fyi – but woe to the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving shopper who ventures into that fiasco.)

What to do? Get creative

sweet potatoesWe Southerners don’t much care that pumpkin is scarce: We like sweet potato pies as much as pumpkin, if not more. There’s always pecan and apple, too – I’ll give those recipes as well — and for old-timers, richly spiced mincemeat. 

Pumpkin is just a squash, when all is said and done. Its texture and sweetness approximate that of the “Sweet Delight” winter squashes you can find in the produce section. The squash is more watery, but here’s a way to get around it.

Squash to be used for pie

1 medium squash (Sweet Delight dumpling squash are a good choice)

  • Clean and cut the squash into quarters. Place in the microwave on a glass plate, skin-side down. Cook on high power till tender – about 10 minutes. Peel it, and mash well. Now, spread it out on a cookie sheet or baking pan with a rubber spatula, and put it in the oven. Bake it at 350 degrees to dry it out some – maybe 15 minutes. It will darken as it cooks.
  • Now, use it as you would packed pure pumpkin, in a pie or in soup or breads.

Another idea

If you do have a can or two of pumpkin, but need more (as I did this morning),  divide the pumpkin into two bowls, and use well drained, mashed sweet potatoes for the remainder of the amount of pumpkin called for (generally 2 cups total per pie). Only a few discerning palates will be able to tell the difference.

Southern sweet potato pie

Note: This recipe makes 3 pies.

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  •  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup (1 small can) evaporated milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts

In a medium pot, boil the scrubbed sweet potatoes in water to cover (or cook till tender in microwave for about 7 minutes per potato). When potatoes are tender, drain, cool and peel them.

In a large mixing bowl, beat potatoes with butter until smooth. Add eggs and milk and beat well. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon if using, and cornstarch; add to potatoes, beating to combine. Add vanilla and beat well.

Divide mixture between three 9-inch unbaked pie crusts.

(Note: Pies will freeze well at this point and can be baked directly from freezer.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until filling sets in center.

Makes three 9-inch pies. These pies freeze well. Keep leftovers refrigerated.

(Recipe from Sweet Southern: A Heritage of Beloved Desserts by Jan Norris.)

Tags: Holiday cooking · Recipes: What's Cooking! · Uncategorized

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ardelia Begay // Feb 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for this informational stuff.

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