By Susan Lyttek
All you need do to get an idea of the daunting task ahead of you should you decide to go the old-fashioned route in preparing squash for pie, is to drop a fresh butternut squash, or worse, a pumpkin onto your toes. They are both hard and heavy. Just imagining the cleaver you need to hack one of these up and take it off the rind while raw is enough to make even the bravest cook swear off scratch baking forever.
Don’t swear off baking and don’t cut it up raw. There’s a much easier and more effective way to turn a squash into a pie. Bake it first.
- Wash the outside of your pumpkin or squash. Yes, smaller pumpkins have tastier flesh, but you can use any, and you can compensate for the diminished flavor. Why would you waste a perfectly good pumpkin?
- Cut it in half. This is by far the hardest step. You can poke it several times to the core and bake it whole, but the stringy pulp and seeds will change the flavor of the pumpkin meat. Also, you can’t use the seeds if you bake it whole as they boil inside.
- Scrape out the seeds and strings. Save the seeds to roast later. I usually put them directly into salted water.
- Put about an inch of water in a roasting pan and put the squash or pumpkin rind side up. Poking the rind a couple of times like you would a potato speeds up the process a little.
- Bake at 350⁰ for about an hour or until the rind yields when pressed.
- Remove from the oven and cover the whole roasting pan and pumpkin set-up with foil. Let sit until cool.
- The steam and residual heat will make the flesh loosen easily from the rind. When cool, you can often pull it off the rind with your fingers. Even the toughest will scrape off easily with a grapefruit spoon.
- Put the pulp in a blender, food processor or Vitamix machine. Add only enough water to let you pulse it until smooth. Use it as you would canned pumpkin in any recipe.
My Favorite Pie
1 traditional pie shell, prebaked for 10 minutes at 400⁰ F.
2 cups pureed pumpkin or squash
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 cup half and half*
3 eggs, beaten
Put all ingredients (other than the crust) in a mixer and blend well. The pie works best if you pour the filling in while the crust is still hot from the prebake. Reduce the heat of the oven to 375⁰ and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife put in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack before serving.
*If you wish to make a dairy-free version, you can add one more egg and use 3/4 cup of soy milk instead of the 1 cup half and half.
Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of the kids’ comedy, Guzzy Goofball and the Homeschool Play from Outer Space (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) and the Talbott family mystery trilogy by Harbourlight Books, including the recent release, Plundered Christmas, writes early mornings in the shadow of our nation’s capital. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers online through Write At Home, and by teaching homeschoolers at middle and high school co-op classes.