This post is about 2 things: friends and family.
Just kidding, that’s super cheesy. This post is about a whole bunch of things: Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, pie, pie crust, pumpkin, Cool Whip vs. Reddi Whip, forgetting to wear gloves when you de-seed peppers . . . again, multiple trips to the grocery store, traditions, baking, friendships, love, family, a little bit of football, and lard.
For this week’s challenge I chose my Grandma Eleanor’s Pumpkin Pie (don’t worry, I’ll share the recipe).
I love to bake. It is easier for me than cooking. There is something about the preciseness required and the creative license you can take when you know what you’re doing. Baking for someone else gives you a warmth that comes from time, effort, and sharing something yummy. And despite my tendency towards impatience and not reading the recipe all the way through, I turned out to be a pretty decent baker.
Most of my skill with baked goods comes from my Mom and Grandma Eleanor. I’m sure my Grandma taught me how to bake chocolate chip cookies during our summer trips spent with her and my Grandpa in small-town Minnesota.
The clearest memory I have of baking with my Grandma is from 6 or so years ago. It was coming up on Thanksgiving, and we volunteered to make the pies for our extended family celebration. I spent an afternoon in her kitchen watching as she rolled out the pie crust to a perfect thickness with little hesitation, mixing up the pumpkin pie filling, and scolding me when I used too many bowls, spoons and spatulas.
My Grandma liked to cook, though she didn’t think it was her defining feature (it wasn’t, that was her sass). She was an excellent teacher, and her food brought a sense of home and family to everything from holidays to random Tuesday night dinners.
Grandma’s recipes are all written down in her Scribble-In book. It’s an old hard-bound note book with a destroyed binding and loose pages. The recipes are tried-and-true favorites, new recipes to try that she had received from friends, the new trendy meal in town, and often merely a collection of ingredients with zero instructions. I spent a summer sitting with her, as she read the scrawled, faded pages and I typed up the recipes to save for our family. The recipes are quick and efficient, lacking detail, written in the haste of a passing day.
I had never made her pie crust on my own. I was always too scared of messing up the thickness and getting it too tough or too crumbly without my Grandma at my side to coach (and scold) me. But, that’s the challenging part of things.
I brought the pie to our annual (5 years running) Friendsgiving Celebration. Danielle (our lovely Hot & Cold Guest Blogger) started up the tradition amongst our law school friends during our first year. Though the make-up of the group has evolved over the years, the feeling of tradition and love is still there. I’ve always liked the idea of getting together with your friends, the sort of family you’ve chosen, to celebrate in anyway possible. We drink too much wine, eat too much food, chat, watch football, and enjoy each other’s company. This year our friends Emily & Ryan hosted us, and we enjoyed her delicious turkey and watched the Vikings-Packers game.
Me, Chad, & Emily prepping for the big day. Emily is, unfortunately, a Packers fan – but we still let her host.
But first the pie (I’ll put the full recipes at the bottom).
The crust is pretty straight forward. I spent a quit a bit of time searching the grocery store for the lard, though. I cut that into the flour, and in another bowl eat the egg, water, vinegar and salt.
Once the lard and flour were the right size, I added in the egg mixture and went crazy with the my pastry blender until it was dough-like. Then into the fridge for at least an hour.
I busted out my rolling pin and, and lined my baking dish. The side-pinching method was super easy. I put the crust in the freezer while I put together the filling.
With Grandma’s recipe, a big (15 oz) can of Libby’s Pumpkin will make you two deep pies (i.e. a glass Pyrex pie pans), or two thin ones and maybe a third (i.e. metal or disposable pie pans). I was making two pies, but only bought 1 can of evaporated milk. This was reason #1 I headed back to the grocery store at 10:00pm on a Saturday night (which I believe is another time-honored Thanksgiving tradition).
I heated the pumpkin for 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring so it wouldn’t burn. Then I tossed in the butter and kept stirring ’til it melted.
While the pumpkin is heating, I combined the dry ingredients and spices into a bowl. Then poured it into the hot pumpkin, whisking away in case anything got clumpy. My Grandma, Mom, and I are all anti-Pumpkin Pie Spice. It seems to taste a little bland, and makes the flavor seem off balance.
Then I beat the eggs, just a little, and added the evaporated milk and water. Once that was all combined it went into the pumpkin, and I did a little more whisking until everything was smooth. Then into the pie shells and into the oven for about 40-45 minutes.
There is a debate amongst some about which is better, Reddi Whip or Cool Whip. I, generally, am afraid of food that gets is whippiness from a can. Others think Cool Whip is gross (ahem, Lisa). To appease all, I made some homemade whipped cream. This was reason #2 to head back to the grocery store.
I had some extra crust dough so I used a few teeny cookie cutters and made some festive fall leaves.
Because it was Friendsgiving, I also volunteered to make the stuffing. I made Ree Drummonds Southern Cornbread Dressing.
It had a little kick, and I cheated and used store-bought cornbread crumbs, but I think it did the trick. Remember how I said this post was about forgetting to wear gloves while you de-seed peppers? This recipe calls for 2 jalapeños. Late Saturday evening, I set to work chopping and mincing, and de-seeding as well. Being either stupid (likely), or thinking that jalapeno seeds weren’t that bad (I did NOT learn my lesson from the mole in Week 8), I went nuts on the jalapeños with bare hands. About 10 minutes later, I touched my face and eyes and all of a sudden the skin around my mouth felt like it was on fire. After a quick text to Lisa, I learned that apparently olive oil does the trick, so I put it right on my face. Though – because it was all over my fingers, taste testing anything for the rest of the evening proved . . . spicy.
The rest of our Friendsgiving is done potluck style, with the host taking on the challenge of turkey-wrangler.
Emily did a fantastic job.
The full spread. Chad took on the mashed potatoes, our friend Kari made a great green been casserole (with homemade cream of mushroom soup, yum!) Emily did the cranberries (not from a can!), our friend Matt did a spinach dip, and Danielle made the always necessary pickle roll, delicious apple pie, and monster cookie dough dip. The rest was provided by some of Ryan’s & Emily’s skilled friends. It was all fantastic.
Things I learned:
- Read the recipe better.
- Pie crust is not nearly as scary as I thought it was.
- Find a gopher to run to the grocery store for you late at night.
- For the love of Turkey, Janine, wear gloves with peppers. But olive oil will work in a pinch.
- Celebrate your traditions, in any way possible.
Happy Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving from me & Lisa to you & yours! Come back next week for Leftovers with Lisa!
Grandma Eleanor’s Pie Crust
Makes 2 double-crust pies.
- 1 heaping cup lard
- 3 cups flour, sifted
- 1 egg
- 5 tbsps cold water
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
Cut the lard into flour. Beat egg, water, vinegar, salt together. Add to flour incorporating until soft.
Grandma Eleanor’s Pumpkin Pie
Makes at least 1 large pie.
- 1 3/4 cups pumpkin
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/14 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tps ginger
- 1/16 cloves
- 1/16 mace
- 1/16 nutmeg (just for fun)
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 2/3 cup water
- Lined pastry shell
Pre-heat oven to 475.
Heat pumpkin 10 minutes stirring often; add butter.
Combine sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, & nutmeg. Mix into hot pumpkin.
Beat eggs slightly. Add evaporated milk and water. Stir into pumpking mixture, beating until smooth.
Pour into pastry shells. Bake at 475 for 10 minutes. Lower oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes longer.