Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Mama's Pumpkin Pie

by Violet Rebecca Jones

My mama is gone now, but she could make the best pumpkin pies in all the world. People who hated pumpkin, and especially hated pumpkin pie, would eat piece after piece of my mama's pie. Mama didn't like pumpkin pie spices, and refused to ever use them. She loved the essence of the pumpkin, the rich full flavor of the orange flesh of the pumpkin with it earthy goodness.

Mama would only use fresh pumpkins, never canned, unless it was an emergency such as when someone wanted a pie and her harvested supply was gone. She would buy several pumpkins each fall when the harvest came in, and would cut, peel, boil, make her pies for Thanksgiving, and then freeze the remainder for use throughout the winter. Cutting the pumpkins was horrendous labor.She would always cut the pumpkins while raw, never baking and then scooping out the pulp as so many recipes today advise. Pumpkins have a hard outer shell that is thick and almost impenetrable, but my mother would do it because she loved her family and wanted the very best for us. I remember her hands swollen from the cutting, but she would never allow me to do it for her because it would make my hands hurt. Knowing those loving hands did this for us made the pie even more delicious, and today, when I cut my own pumpkins to "try" to recreate my mother's pies, I understand just how difficult this was for her.

There was only one kind of pumpkin that my mother would use for her pies. It was not the bright orange pumpkin that one looks for when  carving Jack-O-Lanterns.  She deemed those kinds of pumpkins completely inedible. No, my mother had to have what I can only describe as the "dusty" light orange pumpkins. They are somewhat difficult to find, but she always seemed to find them almost as if she had a certain intuition of where they might be purchased. Even though we had huge vegetable gardens, we never raised pumpkins, so the quest for pumpkins would often take us on Saturday ramblings throughout the countryside in search of the elusive perfect pumpkin. Somehow, she knew exactly what to look for in the pumpkins. She would "thump" them, pick them up, turn them over, etc. I never knew quite what she was looking for,but it must have been right because the pumpkins always cooked up perfectly.

I honestly don't know what she did to make the pies so good. I asked her many times to give me the recipe, and she would tell me what she did, but the pies I have made never taste the same, look the same, or even cut into pieces the same way as my mother's pies did.  She said she never used a measured recipe, but simply added things by guess. I must not be as good at guessing as she was. I so wish that I could taste my mama's pies at least one more time.