Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Quest for Pumpkin Pie

Mostly, I have moved beyond trying to create America in Córdoba. But some things, like Thanksgiving, just need to happen. Some of Scott´s colleagues are interested in having a Thanksgiving Dinner, so for the last couple of months I have been trying to locate ingredients. After weeks of searching, I finally found the necessary herb & spices for stuffing. The next challenge… to re-invent pumpkin pie.

One would think that this would not be too hard, even though in my idea of fresh pumpkin is open the Libby’s can. However, prepackaged and canned goods do not exist in large quantities here in Spain. Canned pumpkin is non-existent. Mostly, the people eat fresh fruits and veges, whatever is in season. So I found a recipe for making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin online. Then a week before Halloween (which is really not celebrated with the same enthusiasm here.) I talked with two different Fruterias about the availability of pumpkins after Halloween and was assured that they would have them through the end of November. (Scott was with me the second time, so I know that this wasn’t a case of miscommunication.) By Halloween, we had been living in Spain for about 6 weeks, and I had seen how quickly the produce could disappear at the markets. So I did some more research online, and determined that the pumpkin puree will freeze without destroying the flavor. I went back to the Fruterias a couple of days after Halloween to get the pumpkins, only to find that there are no more pumpkins to be had… in the entire country of Spain… or so it would seem. Back to the internet… Where I determined that a butternut squash is a good substitution. The can of Libby’s that you open every year is actually butternut squash. I figure that our grandmothers probably couldn’t get people to eat the “squash” pie, so they re-named it “pumpkin”.

The search for a specific type of squash in Spain is complicated by the fact that the different varieties do not have different names. (And perhaps, this is the source of the miscommunication with the Fruterias.) A squash is called a “calabaza,” and as I have learned, a calabaza can be anything from a zucchini to a pumpkin. If you ask for a “calabaza naranja” (orange squash), the vendor may show you a pumpkin, or whatever orange squash he has on hand that has orange flesh. Please understand that I am not a squash expert. So after figuring out what a butternut squash looks like, I bought one, and tried it in the recipe. I must say, it made the absolute best pumpkin pie that I have ever had! So I went back to the Fruteria that afternoon, and asked if they could get me 5 more. I was again assured that it would be no problem, they would have them the next day. But the next day, there were no butternut squash, and I could not seem to find any... anywhere. Several days later, out of desperation, I purchased a third roundish squash. It was the same color as the butternut, but small and round, instead of bulbous shaped like a butternut. (I am not sure what this one is called, as I cannot find a picture of it online.) The guy at the Fruteria told me that it was similar to the butternut, but a little sweeter. I steamed it and determined that it can substitute for the butternut squash, substituting for the pumpkin. Scott and I keep saying to each other… We are not in Kansas (or Oregon) any longer. The seasons for fruits and veges appear to be very short, and when they are gone, they’re really gone. There won’t be any more coming from Mexico, Peru or China.

As luck would have it, a few days later, a couple of butternut squash, and several of the third variety, showed up at the local Fruteria. I bought them all, steamed, pureed and froze them. Pumpkin pie is assured for Thanksgiving.

So if any of you are interested in trying the absolute best pumpkin pie that you will ever eat… in your entire life… and I am not exaggerating… I will never open a can of Libby’s again. This pie is that good!

Go to:

It is a wonderful website, complete with pictures. Make the following substitutions... (Necessary because I live in Spain, and many ingredients are just not available.)

· Use butternut squash
· Substitute 18 oz. of whipping cream for the canned milk
· I made my own allspice… equal parts of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (But put in a tad more cinnamon than nutmeg and cloves.)



A wee footnote: This week there were butternut squash… in large quantities… in all the markets. Apparently butternut squash season is later than other winter squash. Of course, the vendors in the Fruiterias cannot tell you this because all squash are called calabaza, and there are many types of orange squash. Go figure…

1 comment:

weakeyes said...

I do a reasonable amount of the cooking for me, but I've never gotten into the baking routine. Ur pumpkin pie does sound good; I hope it turns out as tasty as you describe!
Weakeyes (Bob)