Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Pie
By Heidi Allison
A new take on the traditional classic, this recipe uses fresh, steamed pumpkin, instead of canned pumpkin, as its foundation. Is it worth the extra step—absolutely! Pumpkin pie is all about the filling—and the difference in flavor between fresh pumpkin puree versus canned pumpkin is a game changer.
There are several culinary tricks to making a great scratch pumpkin pie filling: using the right type of pumpkin, and, properly cooking the flesh. Select a pumpkin that is dense without being fibrous or stringy, and has less water. Go for the grey pumpkins—Blue Hubbard or Jarrahdale cultivars, which have grey-blue skin, squat shape and deep grooves. Their dense flesh is a deep orange-yellow color, and the textures are tight and stringless, which creates a silky-smooth, bright yellow orange puree that is almost creamy. Choose a pumpkin with a weight less that 6 pounds. Avoid the orange sugar pumpkins, which are bland, stringy and too watery.
Steam the pumpkin for 1 hour—no less— then allow the flesh to cool to room temperature before adding the other ingredients to the stand mixer. If any liquid pools during the cooling off period, drain it off— or the filling will be too “wet”, which dilutes flavor. You will get the best results if you do not refrigerate the cooked pumpkin, before adding the remainder of the filling ingredients since refrigeration releases liquid--use the cooked pumpkin flesh the day you prepare it.
Freshly grated ginger and a dash of nutmeg lends the requisite holiday flavor, while the “secret ingredient”, Tennessee whiskey, imparts notes of caramel, vanilla, toasted oak and a kiss of smoke. Nice complementary flavors to highlight the sweet, delicate pumpkin.
If you’re pressed for time, or are “crust-challenged”, use a good-quality, organic prepared frozen crust. To ensure the crust is crisp rather than soggy, pre-bake (blind bake) the crust for 12-14 minutes before adding the filling. To bake blind, line the interior crust with parchment paper or foil, making sure to cover the crimped edges, then pour dry, raw rice and beans into the shell up to the crimp line, which prevents shrinking and keeps the crust’s shape intact.
Pumpkin pie filling ingredients:
1 small gray-blue pumpkin, seeded and cut into large, 3-inch chunks
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. kosher flake salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup light brown sugar
½ bottle of 50 ml Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey (about 1 tablespoon)
2 Tbs. heavy organic cream
12 oz. can organic evaporated milk
1 -inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and micro-planed, (about 1 tablespoon)
1 2-inch deep frozen organic pie shell
1 Tbs. heavy cream
Place pumpkin pieces into a stock pot lined with a steamer basket and 2 inches of water, and bring water to a simmer, cover and steam for 1 hour. Remove pumpkin pieces to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.
Scoop 1 1/2 cups of flesh from skin with a spoon and place into kitchen stand mixer, and mash with potato masher to a thick paste. Add remainder of ingredients. Starting at low speed, gradually increase speed to medium, then mix for 1 minute.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line frozen crust with parchment paper or foil, fill with pie weights or raw dry rice and beans, then place on baking sheet bake and for 12-14 minutes. Remove pie crust from oven, and lift out parchment paper with pie weights or rice and beans, then pour in filling. Brush heavy cream on crimped crust edges with a pastry brush, and bake for 40 minutes or until filling has a few cracks but a bit of giggle in the center. Remove pie and allow to cool for at least 5-6 hours to “set up” before serving. Top with sweetened, whipped cream and serve.
(The finished pie, sans whipped cream, can be refrigerated for several days.)