Sunday, March 29, 2009

The ceremony of Piemaking

I make pie. I mean, from SCRATCH, completely. I don't use anything from a can, or frozen crust. In the fall after Halloween, I buy the poor lonely rejected pumpkins that didn't get chosen for jack o'lanterns, and I give their lives meaning by turning them into pie.

If you've never cut up a pumpkin, it takes about as much effort as cutting down a tree with an ax. Seriously--I know, because I've done BOTH. A SHARP, long thin serated blade works best, but no matter how good your knife is, plan on spending some TIME at it. It doesn't get done quickly, I don't care WHO you are.

I like to save the seeds and soak them overnight in salt water and then bake them on a cookie sheet. Test the salt water to make sure you haven't overdone it before you add the seeds. It needn't be BRINE, just a little salty. Bake them till they are beginning to turn brown, so they are a bit crispy. Pumpkin seeds are VERY good for you--Extremely high in vitamin E and lecithin.

After I have mutilated the pumpkin and cut it into chunks, I put the chunks into a zip lock bag and add the seasonings and shake it up so they get evenly coated.

I do the same thing with apples--I peel and core them (which, though I have a coring took, it still takes forever to peel enough for a pie or two) and then season and sugar them with the ziplock bag trick. At this point, I generally throw the bag into the freezer and leave it there until I am ready to make the pie. The freezing actually helps to soften the apples or pumpkin a bit so they don't require as much cooking.

The crust recipe is essentially my mothers, but I have modified it a bit, as I do with all recipes. I can't seem to help myself, I just have to make a recipe my own. (Actually my favorite way to cook is to not follow ANY recipe, and just throw things together and WING IT!) I have a wonderful rolling pin and a crust "cutting" tool--for mixing the flour butter or shortening into the flour. It makes all the difference in the world. Good utinsels are important in cooking and baking. If you don't believe me, try making meringue with a simple whisk and elbow grease! UGH!!! Pie making requires a lot of time no matter how you do it, and without the right tools, it can be downright exhausting! I recently made two apple pies, and from apple prep to full bake time took SIX HOURS. (That doesn't count clean up, either!)

On that note, always prewash your utinsels right away, before you wash them or run them through the dishwasher. It just gets them extra clean, and saves a lot of goop from going in your regular wash water.

Making a pie is almost a spiritual ceremony to me. My pies are an intention, a gift to someone--for a special occasion, for a special thank you, congratulations, or just to say I love you. They are made with intention and care and love--a ritual of expression. I never bake when I am sad or angry---I believe it can ruin a pie, or a loaf of bread. The best pies are made with the all the love for those who will enjoy it baked right in.