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Pumpkin Pie & Winter Solstice

Monday, June 27, 2011

After months of fantasizing, last Tuesday I made my first pumpkin pie in Palena.  It made me think of when I tried the same thing in Mexico, only to realize that by the end of November, i.e. Thanksgiving, pumpkins are no longer readily available.  But here there seems to be big orange squash year-round, and it is just the beginning of winter, so– pumpkin pie time.

Today was take two, in preparation for my end-of-the-semester celebration with my adult English class tomorrow.  And this time I took pictures!

Step 1: Find yourself a big hunk of pumpkin/squash.  It’s all one family.

Step 2: Scrape, chop, and coook that baby up.  I’ve always baked pumpkin, and by “I” I mean “what my Mom does and therefore I learned”.  But last time I baked squash here for pumpkin bread it took hours, so I tried boiling it for my last pumpkin pie and it worked like a charm.

Step 3: While that’s cooling (or many hours later in the day), make some crust.  Flour, dash sugar, then cut in the butter.  I know, without a pastry cutter this is grueling, but that’s the way we make blueberry pie at my grandparent’s in Maine, so I’ve done it before.  I remember when we were little giving Dad this job to do while he watched basketball on TV.

Step 4: Once you’ve added your ice water, make a ball with all that dough and stick it in the fridge.  By the way, I hope you weren’t looking for more of a “recipe” because I don’t use one: I just do it the way I learned from my mom!  It makes me feel all proud and traditionally feminine that we have a “family recipe” that is all by feel and memory.

Step 5: Make the pumpkin filling: add milk, egg, honey (no molasses in Palena), sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger.  I’ve always done this in a food processor, but it turns out a hand-held mixer works all right, too.  Side note: A few hours later I filled this same pot (cleaned!) with hot water (thank you plug-in kettle, back-right of photo) to shower when my hot water heater decided to go out.

Step 6: Roll out the dough.  I’ve discovered that a cleaned up wine bottle works beautifully as a rolling pin.  I think I will try this in the US next time I’m living somewhere without a rolling pin (i.e. not with my parents).


Step 7: Getting that dough in the pie pan, or in my case, spring-form cake pan.  When I was little, I would leave the kitchen for this part, as Mom would get angry and sometimes even swear.  Now really, if your mom swearing over pie crust makes the top five list of Traumatizing Childhood Events, you’re doing pretty well.  I, too, find it stressful, but when you’re used to working with gluten free (or glutton-free, as we say) flour, a simple white flour and real butter crust is a dream.  And P.S., bottom crusts are a breeze, because no one knows what surgery when on between photos 2 and 3 above!

Step 8: Pour in the filling, and decorate the crust.  I went for a double fork-dent, kind of the traditional one we do, except with two rows to make an corner on the crust.  It’s just what worked with the cake pan.

Step 9: Take it out of the oven when it’s done.  This took me almost two hours, from biggest possible to fire, then I slowly let it burn down, and closed up the stove so it burned cooler.  Maybe I’ll post a picture of a perfect slice tomorrow.


Also, here’s a little poem I’m working on.  I went to high school where “no prefacing” was the golden rule, but let’s just preface by saying: this is a draft, big time, and I have no inflated perception of my talent in this department, just sometimes feel like writing in a different way (and also, I’m not really that miserable, I promise).


June 2011

I dream of the crch crch sound of weaving,

my left hand pressing down the threads on top,

my right pinkie finger looping up the threads that rise,

and my then favorite:

to push down the finished row with the wooden handle.


My hands are black and grey,

red, pink and purple,

from soot, ash, burn marks, old scabs.

Why paint my nails?

But I did last weekend,

must be the need to feel pretty

when I see my breath in the bathroom

and my tummy in my long underwear

hangs out over jeans I used to wear with flip-flops

and last June’s beach cover-up

this year is covered over by sweater, scarf, fleece,

red and white stripes of the thin dress

poke out from under my parka.



I simmer potatoes, beets and cabbage

as I scroll down recipes of asparagus, strawberries, and basil.

I read the orange and blues of the fire,

I poke, adjust, stir.

I am cooking fire all day long.



Winter solstice: June 21


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Woodman permalink
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:57 am

    Love it Meg… making your mother proud with all that tradition. And you are FUNNY, LOL with the kitchen trauma. Glad you’re keeping it together so far, and the crust looks PERfect.
    Not to be mean but it’s sunny, in the 80’s today… wish we could go to Crane’s together… but soon we’ll be building fires with you in palena!!!!! YEAH!!!

  2. sally chapdelaine permalink
    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 7:44 am

    I love this so much as fall and Thanksgiving are my favorites! Oh so delightful recipe and pictures and great poem.thank you.Have a fabulous visit with your great family.Your Mom is such a treasure to me.Sally

    • Friday, July 1, 2011 1:36 pm

      Thanks, Sally! What’s not to love about pumpkin pie, even if it’s June.

  3. sally johnson permalink
    Thursday, June 30, 2011 8:21 am

    Delicious sounding. wonderful references to crust making. I remember summers in Harspwell with you and your Mom working on our blueberry pie crust together.
    I know your folks and Alice are on their way to you. have a wonderful reunion and time together!
    say hello to them for me! 🙂
    Much love,

  4. Friday, July 1, 2011 1:37 pm

    I know, blueberry pie will always make me think of Harpswell with the Wilkinson- Johnsons! Yes, I am so excited to see the family soon.
    Love, Meg

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