By Rosanna Bauman I can’t help it; I’m talking about pie again! But I have a soft spot for the under-appreciated pumpkin pie, simply because most folks take it for granted. Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving food, and as a result, it gets put on the table for tradition and not taste. I start getting excited about pumpkin pie when the pumpkins start ripening in the field at the end of September. Once you’ve made a pie from an actual pumpkin, it feels cheap to open a can of Libby’s. Surprisingly, making a pie from scratch really isn’t that time consuming. The single most important thing about cooking up a pumpkin to use for pie is selecting the pumpkin. Picking up the nearest pumpkin.and cooking it will most likely result in a frustrating baking experience ahd a disappointing dessert. A good pumpkin pie does not start with a recipe, but on the farm wfth the pumpkin itself. Although the prices of the jack o’lantern pumpkins (especially after October) are attractive, they do not have much flesh. Most of the pumpkins will be classified as pie pumpkins, although you will want to verify this. There are some varieties of small pumpkins that are mini-jack o’lanterns and have tough skin and thin flesh to ensure a long life as a decoration. The best place to find a good pumpkin for using in a pIe is at a farmers market or pumpkin patch. There are some grocers who do know their pumpkins, but most do not. When we started raising pumpkins ten years ago, you could not find specialty pumpkins in grocery stores, but now even our local grocer has a small selection. It is these specialty pumpkins that get me excited about pies, because they make exceptional pumpkin puree. I personally don’t use the small pie pumpkins, because they are small. If I am going to cook up a pumpkin, I want it to be worth my time. The weight of the pumpkin is equally proportional to the cups of puree you receive from it, so a three pound pumpkin will yield three cups. But, trust me, if you have fresh pumpkin, you’ll be wanting more than three cups ! I go looking for a large, heavy fleshed “squash pumpkin” usually in the 10 pound range. To make sense of this, we have to remember that pumpkins, as a member of the cucurbit family, are technically squashes, but all squash are not pumpkins- Squash tend to make better pies than pumpkins because their flesh is smoother. The butternut and striped cushaw squash can be made into a good pie, but it is too yellow-fleshed to be a pumpkin pie look-alike. So I go for the winter squash that are shaped like pumpkins. My favorite is the Jarrahdale because it is unique. These slate-gray pumpkins are attractive in fall decorations, but they don’t look appetizing at all. But when you cut them open, you ge a surprise: shocking tangerine- colored flesh! Other good varieties are: Blue Hubbard, Sweet Meat, Cinderella /Rouge vif d’etarnpes, Red eye, One Too Many and surprisingly, the ugly peanut-warted Galeaux d’Eysines and Red Warty Thing. Also excellent are the heirloom pumpkins, such as Long Island Cheese and Fairytale. These varieties tend to be more flattened than the chunky Iarrahdale, which is harder to fit in the oven, but they’ll bake faster. These pumpkins will keep a long time (fresh-made pumpkin pie for Christmas?) as long as they do not freeze and didn’t get skin damage from handling or field insects. Now that we have found a good pumpkin, what do we do with it? Bake? Boil? I prefer baking because it is less effort and mess; but.a little longer cook time. If you boil pumpkin you have to worry about peeling it, and that’s a hassle. For baking pumpkin, you may split your pumpkin either vertically or horizontally depending on your available baking dish sizes. The great thing about the squash pumpkins is that the seeds and their webbing are easily and neatly removed in one scoop. You may want to wash and save the seeds for roasting and salting. Once the seeds are scraped and out place the pumpkin either face up in a covered roasting pan or face down on a rimmed baking sheet. If baking flesh up in the roaster, pour two cups of water into the bottom to prevent burn spots. Bake at 350 until tender. Baking time depends on pumpkin size and flesh thickness. Small pumpkins may only need 30 minutes, larger ones will take an hour to 90 minutes. Check for tenderness by sticking a fork in the flesh (like you do when boiling potatoes) or check by pressing on the pumpkin’s shell. If it gives easily, it is thoroughly baked. Let cool. If the pumpkin was baked face down, flip the pumpkin over and drain the water off of the pan. If the pumpkin was baked face up, drain the water that has pooled in the cavities. This is to prevent a watery puree. Then, scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the shell into a blender or a bowl to hand mash. Drain any water that accumulates in the blender and puree until smooth. Use two cups to transform any recipe calling for one 15 ounce can of pumpkin. I do have my own customized pumpkin pie recipe that has a nice pumpkin flavor and lots of spices. I have to look at the recipe in October when I start making pumpkin pies, then I have it memorized through New Year’s, I use it so often. This makes a deep dish 9″ pie or pour it in a pie dough lined jelly roll pan to feed a crowd. ROSANNA’S AUTHENTIC PUMPKIN PIE 2 farm fresh eggs 2 cups cooked pumpkin 1 /4 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1 /2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon flour 1 1 /3 cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon vanilla Stir and mash together in a big bowl in the order given. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 375 for 45 – 50 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.