Thursday, November 22, 2012

dutch oven pumpkin pie - a Foster Family specialty

In our family, it is just not Fall without pumpkin pie.  John and I absolutely love it, so imagine our excitement when we had a get-together a few weeks ago with the Reynolds and Foster families, and our friend Steve Foster, brought over all the ingredients to make one.  But in good Steve Foster fashion, he ramped up the coolness factor and did it all in a Dutch oven. 

It has been a little over ten years ago that I was introduced to the Dutch oven.  John and I journeyed West as a part of an education grant he had received to travel a portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  One leg of that trip included a three-night excursion on the Salmon River in Idaho.  I was over five months pregnant, mind you, but even my discomfort of sleeping on the ground in a tent after each day on the water (sometimes calm, many times not) could not take away from the fascinating experiences and wonderful memories.  That leg of the trip was definitely what I would call "roughing it," except for the outfitting company's gourmet meals they would cook us in the Dutch oven.  Each day, the guys would unload all of these coolers, equipment, and bags from the raft, just to set up shop and prepare some of the best meals I've ever eaten.  The salmon, as you can imagine, was out of this world!  

A couple of years ago, I happened upon my very own Dutch oven from a family friend who just didn't want theirs.  Although it had never been used and was in perfect condition, I couldn't begin to know what in the world to do with it.  Little did I know we would soon make friends with The King of Dutch Ovens himself, Steve Foster, and I no longer had to wonder.

From what I understand, this pumpkin pie was the first the Foster family had ever done in the Dutch oven... an experiment, if you will.  Total success, by the way!  At the start of a beautiful Fall, this last-minute get-together around a fire one evening brought together my absolute favorite flavors of the season, during one of my favorite seasons of the year, with some of my favorite people!  

Happy Thanksgiving from our backyard to yours!

The equipment.
Thoroughly heated charcoal is a must.  Steve explains how to determine how many briquettes are needed and ways to ensure even cooking.

 "Charcoal is based on the "rule of 3". If your dutch oven is 12 inches in diameter, form a ring of 9 charcoal briquettes (12 - 3 = 9) under the outside edge of the dutch oven. Place 15 charcoal briquettes (12 + 3= 15) on the lid of the dutch oven."
 "If it is windy, you need to try to block the wind as it will blow the heat away. You can take a long piece of aluminum foil and make a screen wall out of it to block the wind. If it is a cold day, you may have to add a could of extra charcoal briquettes on top."

 "With the "rule of 3" you can generally be assured that inside your dutch oven is a toasty 350 degrees Fahrenheit."

"For best results, that is even cooking, rotate the pot 180 degrees clockwise and the lid 180 degrees counter clockwise every 15 minutes. This will reduce the chance of burning our pie should there be a 'hot spot'."

 Ms. Sara's homemade pie filling recipe is below...  the best!

 "We cooked the pie for between 45 minutes and an hour. Pie is ready when tooth pick comes out clean."
"Don't open the dutch oven any more than you absolutely have to, because it will let all the heat out. You will smell your wonderful pie as it cooks."

Sara's Fresh Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin* or canned
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • 6 ounces of evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 9 inch deep dish pie shell

~ Combine all ingredients well and pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an 
    hour (or in Dutch oven as explained above). 
~ Pie is cooked when knife/tooth pick comes out clean

Tips and Tricks:

  • Ms. Sara says to use first measures for mild-spiced pie and the second for richly flavored results.  For our get-together, she used the rich end of the spices and 12 ounces of evaporated milk.  She did not use any of the plain milk.

* For fresh pumpkin, see Ms. Sara's directions:

Take a jelly roll pan and line it with foil. Make holes in the pumpkin so the steam will escape and not explode in the oven. Place pumpkin on pan and cook for an hour in 300 degree oven or until you can peal the rind off easily, only pealing enough to test. When the pumpkin is done, cut it in half. Be careful of steam. Once you have it cut in half, scoop out all the seeds and strings of pumpkin. Then scoop out the meat of the pumpkin. I use a food processor to make a purée. Sometimes you have excess water from the steam that was created while cooking. You may want to drain your pumpkin before using the food processor.

Oh... and Charley got LOTS of lovin'.