Pumpkin pie is not traditionally eaten in Ireland but is historically baked around the festivities for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States and Canada. It has, however, become a more popular Halloween dish in Ireland in recent years, as many coffee shops and restaurants have been adding this sweet, mousse-like dessert dish to their seasonal menu.
The original Jack O'Lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets and has been a popular tradition here for centuries! Immigrants from Ireland brought the Jack O'Lantern tradition with them when they went to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect Jack O'Lanterns.
So, whether you're making this pie for Thanksgiving or just for fun, I am going to add another little piece of Ireland to mix, by flavoring my pumpkin pie with a little Jameson Irish Whiskey. You can use whichever brand is your own favorite!
There are many, many types of pumpkin, some are good for eating and some are not. The big Halloween carved Pumpkin that you see each year was bred especially for carving, with its tough, thick skin and fibrous flesh. Pumpkins grown to be eaten tend to be heavier because they have more flesh inside. The veg shops and supermarkets sell smaller pumpkins like the French Rouge vif d'Etampes, also known as the "Cinderella Pumpkin" (it got its nickname from it's the fairy tale carriage). The most common pumpkin on sale here in Ireland, that is used for cooking, is called a "Becky" Pumpkin.
The first recorded recipe for "modern" pumpkin pie was published as a 'Pompkin Pudding' in 1796, in a book called American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. This cookbook is considered to be the first Cookery Book to be published by an American, in America. Only four copies of the first edition are known to exist.
A pumpkin pie is made, more or less, in the same way as a baked cheesecake or a custard tart and is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. If you've never eaten a pumpkin pie, you could be excused for thinking that it might taste like a savory vegetable quiche - but it's really more like a cheesecake in a pastry crust! The gingernut biscuits add flavor and also help to make the base crunchier. The evaporated milk gives a richness to the pie and the Irish whiskey works just perfectly with the spices to give it a yummy warming taste sensation!
It's very simple to make and once you have the pumpkin purée made, the rest of it comes together quickly and easily. In the US, they buy canned puréed pumpkin for use in cooking.
You can make this recipe at any time of year by substituting Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato instead of pumpkin. Their texture and taste are almost the same when flavored and cooked.
To make the pumpkin puree:
Cut a medium-sized pumpkin into wedges and discard all the seeds.
8.5oz (250g) plain flour
3.5oz (100g) butter
2.5oz (75g) light brown sugar
1 medium egg
A little cold water
3.5oz (100g) crushed gingernut biscuits
Rub the butter into the flour until it's like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in.
Crumb the gingernut biscuits in a blender or by placing them in a sandwich bag and rolling them with a rolling pin until fine.
Ho to make the filling:
3 medium eggs
5.5oz (160g) light brown sugar
1x 15 fl oz (410g) can of evaporated milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
A pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
14oz (400g) pumpkin purée
1 fl oz (35ml) Irish Whiskey
Add the pumpkin purée along with all the flavorings and mix everything together until smooth.
I have no chef logic behind the mixing and stirring by hand. Sometimes it's just relaxing and therapeutic to slow down and do it all by hand!
Carefully pour the mix into your pie dish and tap the side of the dish a few times to help raise the air bubbles to the top. Bake in the center of a pre-heated oven at 160°C / 320°F for 40 minutes.
Check the pie as you would when testing a sponge cake. It should be soft, but responsive to the touch when it's cooked - giving you a little spring in the center when gently pushed down.
To turn it out, put a flat plat on top, turn it over, tap the bottom of the baking tin and lift up gently. Now put your serving plate on the bottom of the pie and turn it back over.
I must admit, this was the first pumpkin pie I ever made - and it was delicious! A little dollop of fresh cream went down a treat with my Irish Whiskey Pumpkin Pie, as did the extra "wee doodley" (as they call a sneaky shot of whiskey around Donegal Town).