I first attempted to make a pumpkin pie from a whole pumpkin when I was in high school. Thanks to my Dad, I had conquered my fear of pie crusts and thus happily volunteered to make the pumpkin pie for our neighborhood Thanksgiving potluck. I don’t remember where I found the recipe, but when I read the words “pumpkin puree” I thought I could just use a pumpkin from our garden to make the puree instead of using canned pumpkin. What I failed to realize was that it is necessary to cook a pumpkin before pureeing the flesh.

Have you ever tried to peel a pumpkin? Let me tell you, it is not an easy task! I hacked, I sawed, I whittled away, finally managing to separate the flesh from the hard outer shell. A pile of pale orange flesh stared back at me from the cutting board and I wondered how the heck I was supposed to puree it. Hauling my mom’s big food processor out of the cupboard, I fed the hard chunks into the bowl and watched as they bounced around inside. Eventually I had what resembled shredded bits of hard squash. It wasn’t the puree I imagined, but I figured it would work. The pumpkin bits were mixed with eggs, spices, and other ingredients and then carefully poured into the waiting pie shell. After 45 minutes in the oven, I pulled out a pumpkin pie the color of peach yogurt. Pale, with little flecks of flesh throughout the custard, it was far from traditional.

My neighbors kindly sampled the pie, declaring that it was “unique”, “interesting”, and had a “great crust!” The truth was that uncooked pumpkin puree creates a very strange pie. Somehow the squash managed to taste raw even though it technically cooked in the oven. With enough whipped cream, you could get it down, but that year the apple pie easily ran away with the popular vote.

Apparently the experience didn’t scar me for life, since a decade or so later you will still find me making pumpkin pies from scratch. Now, however, with the added step of cooking the pumpkin before attempting to puree the flesh!

Cooking the pumpkin couldn’t be easier. You simply take a small sweet variety of pumpkin (often called sugar or pie pumpkins), trim off the stem, and cut it in half. The seeds are scooped out and then the pumpkin halves are placed in a baking dish with deep sides. The dish is filled with a few inches of water and then the whole thing bakes in the oven until the pumpkin is soft.

A food processor comes in handy once again, turning the cooked pumpkin into a smooth puree, which is then mixed right into the pie filling. When I tasted pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin for the first time, it was a revelation. Even without salt, the puree has a sweet and fresh quality unlike any canned pumpkin puree I’ve tasted. It makes a marvelous pumpkin pie and leftover puree can be frozen for later, mixed into any variety of baked goods, or even turned into soup!

I like a spiced pumpkin pie, and this recipe really delivers. Combining all the classic pumpkin pie spices with molasses and maple syrup creates a winning version of this traditional dessert. It tastes of fall and Thanksgiving. With a little sweetened whipped cream, this pie will leave you hoping that there are leftovers for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie from a Whole Pumpkin (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from: Bon Appétit, Mary Dillman Burke
Makes 1 9″ pie

Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients:

1 Sugar Pumpkin, approximately 2-3 lbs
Water

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the bottom third.

Wash the pumpkin, cut off the top and slice the pumpkin in half. Scrape out all of the seeds (don’t worry too much about the strings), and place the pumpkin cut side down in a large roasting pan. Fill the pan with water until it is 1-2″ deep around the pumpkin halves. Place the pan in the oven for approximately 90 minutes, or until the flesh is soft when pierced with a fork. Remove the pumpkin from oven and let it cool. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop the pulp out of the pumpkin shells. Puree the pulp in a food processor until it is smooth, and then store in the fridge for up to 1 week. The puree can also be frozen for up to 1 year.

Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:
2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon mild-flavored (light) molasses (I used dark molasses, but we love molasses)
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1 9-inch pie crust (homemade and chilled or purchased and left frozen)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F, with a rack in the middle.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and ginger. When the dry ingredients are combined, next whisk in the pumpkin puree, molasses, maple syrup, eggs, and then cream. When the mixture is well combined, pour it into the cold crust.

Set the pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet to catch any spillover and set the sheet in the oven. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and continue to bake until the sides puff up and the center is just set when the pie is jiggled slightly. This will take about 40-45 minutes. Cool the pie to room temperature and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

The pie can be made 1 day ahead of time, and kept covered in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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