Monday, December 15, 2008

Pie Magic

This summer, in addition to all the other yum-ables, magic-als, sniff-ables, and medic-inals we grew in our garden, I planted two heirloom pumpkin plants, both of them of the "antique French" persuasion by the name of "Cinderella's Carriage.

Here (at left) are my two vines as they made a bid to take over a whole corner of the yard (and succeeded)

From these two vines, we ended up with three very beautiful, almost luminescently orange pumpkins, deeply lobed and fun to thump fondly whenever I'm down in the basement (where they can keep for months and months). At Thanksgiving, I chose this pumpkin for two pies:
I was so pleased with the flesh of these pumpkins--rich orange, sweet with very little stringiness, and incredibly easy to cut through (some people have to use saws to cut their pumpkins....I had to only use a medium-large carving knife). There was very little "junk" in this pumpkin--lots of seeds (hooray! more pumpkins!) and very little gunk to scoop out. To get my pumpkin pulp, I steamed big slices of the pumpkin, scooped the flesh from the rind, and pureed it with my most favorite of all anachronistic kitchen tools, the hand-cranked mixer.

I whipped up one of my FAMOUS blue-ribbon pie crusts (Seriously! The local coffee shop uses my recipe for their quiche and pie crusts!), mixed the spices (cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, hand-ground cloves, and lemon zest) in, and let it sit for awhile.

You're probably dying to see the finished product, so here she is:

This pie was MAGIC from start to finish. It was the seed nestled into black loam. It was that first hint of green breaking through the soil. It was bees drenched in pollen as they emerged from the flaming torches of the pumpkin blossoms. It was that first acorn-sized fruit, growing visibly bigger every day. It was the good earth under my bare feet. It was a secret dance with the fireflies at dusk as, mason jar of wine in hand, I twirled through the pumpkin patch in an ecstatic outburst that was born out of cricket song, moonflower nectar, and the mud between my toes. It was the coming of fall and the feeling of cradling all that dense beauty in my arms. And then it was that first breathless slice with the blade, the rich and unequivocal smell of pumpkin filling the kitchen, the slow grind with the pestle over a mortar full of cloves, and, finally, into the oven for a long hour of watching and waiting as the filling bubbled and baked. Four full moons and firefly light. Appalachian spoons and coal-town cast iron. That's how I make magic (and pumpkin pie).

And the taste? Like moon butter. Like sugared sunlight. Like a gilded feast in Elf-land. Like a lantern-lit meal in a log cabin. Like wooden carts full of flowers and vegetables whose names we've forgotten, creaking towards a table set for an endless picnic in some grove we must be led to blindfolded.