Little do people know, pumpkin pie can save your life; especially, if you’re itching for some cash and a quick honest way to make it; and, also, if you are on a tight budget and enjoy healthy vitamin-packed, affordable foods. You can make a few pumpkin pies straight up off a few dollars if going the conventional route; or you can make it as your great granny probably did–way back during the Great Depression (like I do now since I moved to IRI– sanctioned territory). Allow me to explain…
Living the hard knock life for a short time, and somewhat doing that today, I had to come up with ways to feed my kids and pay the bills; thus making Pumpkin pie was a great way to do that! I hustled it, during the Texas autumn and winter seasons–mid-October to January–taking my homemade pumpkin pies to any place that welcomed me. I covered five bars in my hometown (there are more bars than churches): I never understood their love for pumpkin pie, before and after closing time–but, hey, it worked for me! Convenient store owners paid for this Mamma’s pie, who would resale them by the slice, those business savvy guys! I sold to professors, who loved to help a poor, struggling student out. Nursing home and hospital workers, even folks in the ER bought my pie. Most of all, I sold to people, in general, who just did not have the time to make anything homemade (tired of their regular and limited eat stops like McDonald’s or Chili’s)–they yearned for the things that Mamma used to make–if Mama was cool. I knew who to hit up and where, yo! I was ahead of my game; eventually, my homemade pie business earned me enough money to take my studies abroad, to India, for a few months.
Yes. That is how good it got. I generated so much money from my pie dealing business that I was stuffin’ cash into my sofa, hiding it under floorboards, and running out of places to put my bills (Okay, I may be exaggerating here, just a wee a bit, but it makes this all sound good). People knew who I was alright: Annie the pumpkin pie hustler (not to be mistaken with another kind of hustle). Sometimes I would be stopped on the street by someone saying, “Hey you got any pie?” or “We hear yours is the best on the street.” People were begging for my pies at one point. So, back in the US of A, I could always count on my peeps to buy my pumpkin pies, giving me that extra somethin’ I needed to survive my hard knock life. But, suddenly, that all changed when I moved to Iran, where my cooking skills and my street smarts were challenged by a society that did not even eat the much loved American pumpkin pie: OMG, Toto we definitely weren’t in Texas anymore!
From the start of my “Pie selling” business, I never put too much effort into what I did. As you know, in the U.S. all the pie fixings are prepared and easily plop out of a can (Love how pumpkin pie puree literally plops out, like this: shluuuush PLOP!!) Few people, I know of, can actually make the homemade pie crust. Moreover, no one cares to get their hands dirty by gutting and dismembering the gourds or pumpkins, themselves, in order to get the most important base ingredient for the pie: the actual innards for that sweet pumpkin puree. Most of us run to Libby’s and the Pillsbury dough boy: this is calling it homemade in the U.S.A.–at least where I am from, there is either homemade, or scratch, or the way they did things in the stone age.
Photo: Cleaning out the insides of some of our pumpkins and making jack-o-lanterns too.
Moving forward, I had a long road ahead of me to master an entirely new way of making the pioneer woman’s pumpkin pie, introducing it to a society who loves the traditional Persian flavors, and is pretty hard to win over when it comes to something new and unusual. Pumpkin pie was unheard of here and almost taboo. Therefore, I had to find new ways of making Pumpkin pie, and try new things, too, without relying on canned ingredients. And with a little effort and know-how, it was not that hard to master a truly homemade, to the next level, extreme pumpkin pie.
My family knows that I love adding pumpkin, squash, and other gourds to many things; these fruits are the base material in some of my other dishes. Maybe it is a Native American thing? So, one year, my brother-in-law farmed everything I needed in order to make my pumpkin puree for various dishes, one, of course, was the pumpkin pie.
I learned to make the base ingredients from scratch, by checking out ol’ ma and pa sites online: there are so many and all tend to be pretty useful, right down to how to gut a gourd! I peeled, sliced, diced, and boiled and made my own pumpkin puree, which is probably so much healthier than the canned stuff! I managed to successfully make pumpkin pies out of the many ingredients grown in our own village. And since I managed to make the pie, I had to get people to eat it and like it too. My family is always the first people that I experiment with when making new foods; fortunately, they liked the pie so much it has now been part of our normal eating. People in my village and expansive family heard about my pie, they showed up on my doorstep curious about it. Just for them, I made it and topped it off with whip cream. Most of the kids just at the whip cream and crust; that’s cool, I did the same when I was their age. It was more appreciated by the soft teethed adults. Already, I have been asked to make it for a few parties and occasions. So, a short-term pie business in the future is likely, but for now, I am just happy I can make them without depending on canned goods.
Today, most of the ingredients for my pumpkin pie grows out of my own backyard: eggs, milk, and gourds. This is, honestly, something I never dreamed of doing while in the USA. I always wanted too but never did it. I never lived in the right environment or in an area where farming, to this extent, was possible. The US has many laws and restrictions on farming and what you can and cannot do in your own backyard. Iran tends to be a little more liberal in this sense. I mean, we know people raising chickens in their apartments and gardening off their rooftops and balconies. Iran tends to encourage agricultural work and trade more so than American society. I just love it. I have always appreciated homegrown foods. Moving to Iran took me that extra step further, even when it comes to the American foods that I love and have now found ways to new to make and appreciate–from an entirely different perspective.
One of our egg laying Silkie hens with her man.
Pumpkin Puree: Ingredients and Instructions:
Diced and peeled pumpkin or ground (small to large)
5cups + Water for boiling process
Recipe for Pumpkin Puree:
You can use any type of gourd really, as long as you can get out enough fruit for a few cups to make one pie. After peeling or carving out the pumpkin or gourd remove, all the seeds. You can cut the harder pieces into chunks or squares. Boil everything from the inside, asides from the seeds, in water. Boil and stir occasionally until water begins to evaporate. Lower heat after 30 minutes or so, and continue to stir. You can slow cook the puree for a few hours and then squeeze out all water. After long cooking, draining and stirring, it will become a smooth and soft puree, perfect for making a pie. Whatever is not needed for pie can be canned or frozen.
Homemade Pie Crust Ingredients and Recipe:
3 cups of sifted flour
8-12 ounces of shortening, butter flavored optional
8-16 tablespoons of water
1 tsp of salt
(sometimes the ingredients will vary in order to get the dough to the right consistency and portion)
In a bowl add flour with salt, mix it in. Then use a knife or a cheese-grader to chop flakes off a cold chunk of shortening, if you can get butter flavored shortening even better! Begin to stir in the shortening, working it into the flour, add the water teaspoon by teaspoon. Put some work into mixing the dough, first with a spoon then by hand, till it forms like a nice softball, one that is not too firm or not too soft. When it forms well, do not over water it, stop adding the water. You may need to add just a lil’ more flour if you put too much water, it is nothing that cannot be fixed. Just make sure that your ball of dough is smooth, and it should be enough for two large family-sized pies. Break the ball in two and form two baseballs. With a roller and a lightly floured solid surface, form your crust and roll it out. Make sure it covers all area of your pie dish. Set the rolled out raw crust aside and move on to making the pie. Any leftover pie dough can be frozen.
Pumpkin Pie Ingredients and Recipe:
1 large pie crust
8-10 oz of condensed sweetened milk: various links added below so you can easily make your own at home; if you prefer, non-sweetened condensed milk can also be used.
1/2 cup of brown sugar: sometimes more needs to be added or less, you need to taste a little bit of the mix once all ingredients are added, the sweetened condensed milk adds a lot of sugar to taste too.
1 1/2 cup of homemade Pumpkin puree: I prepare and cook the puree for hours in advance.
2 fresh eggs from yer own dern chickens, if you have: if not pick up some organic eggs that you trust. I am quite picky when it comes to purchasing commercial eggs. We are spoiled with our own eggs from beautiful hens.
1 teaspoon of fresh ground cinnamon
2-3 pinches of ginger depend on what the chef likes
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Make sure all water is drained from the pumpkin after the puree process. Next, add beaten eggs to the puree along with all spices, milk, and sugar. Mix it all well, make sure there are no lumps (see the image of pie mix in a crust). Pour the mix into the pie crust and bake in the oven on a medium setting for 45 minutes, sometimes less. I check if the pie is ready by color and by inserting a fork or toothpick; if ready, it should come out clean. Undercooked pie is usually runny, you do not want that. Once your pie is cooked, let it cool. You can add ice cream or cool whip to it!