Seasonal Flavors: John (and Wesley’s) Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

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Pumpkin pie

I consider myself a purist when it comes to Thanksgiving. Oh yes, over the years I tried adding sausage or chestnuts to the stuffing, but I’d always return to the old faithful bread, onion, and seasonings. I do now make the green bean casserole from scratch (except for those marvelous, canned crunchy onions on top). Peas and corn from a can; it’s tradition!

And then there is the pie. I like a standard, no frills, directions-on-the-can, pumpkin pie. That is, until I tried husband John’s pumpkin chiffon pie. It’s a tad lighter in texture and a tad deeper in flavor, and just delightful. Best of all, he enjoys making it and receiving the post-dinner applause. So, this is what will grace our dessert table come the fourth Thursday in November. 

The good news: this requires only about 15 minutes of oven time.

The bad news: this is a time-consuming preparation, and it needs six hours of refrigeration. With luck, outside temperatures will be cool and you can leave it on the screened porch like I do.

John Wesley got the recipe from his father Wesley and modified it a bit, as is his wont. And I trust he will hand it on to our about-to-be-born grandson Wesley.

Wishing all Crozet Gazette readers, a grateful holiday.

John (and Wesley’s) Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

For the crust:

  • 16 oz ginger snap cookies, coarsely broken
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grind the gingersnaps, sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add the melted butter and process until combined. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, covering the bottom and sides of the pan. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet and bake until darkened and firm, 11-13 minutes. Allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

For the pie filling:

  • 3 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ cup Cointreau or Drambuie
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ cup sugar to add to the pumpkin, 1/3 cup sugar to add to the egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks lightly beaten
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 egg whites 
  • Whipped cream for serving

In a small bowl, sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over the Cointreau or Drambuie, to soften, for 5 minutes. Then, prepare a second slightly larger bowl of hot water, and place the gelatin/liqueur bowl carefully into the hot water, to help the gelatin dissolve.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin, cream and ½ cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, and all the spices and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the gelatin mixture and let it cool.

In a large bowl beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. This can be done by hand or using a hand mixer or standing master. Now, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat the egg/sugar mixture to retain the soft peaks.

Fold this meringue into the partially cooled pumpkin mixture.

Pour the completed filling into the baked pie crust and chill for at least six hours. Any extra filling can be chilled in custard cups, for your gluten-free guests. 

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