Sunday, October 21, 2012

Going, Going, Gone...

The frost isn’t quite on the pumpkin here in the piedmont of North Carolina but I’ve certainly felt its breath whispering across my nape lately.  Early mornings aren’t yet brisk, but they’ve sent me in search of a pair of socks to warm against my kitchen floor’s chill.  Autumn’s brilliance shows up in varying degrees depending on the type of tree I’m contemplating.  Inducing one reverie after another, careening flocks of migrating birds distract me from a pale daily routine, taking me with them in my imagination.  The pace of my days has changed from a flamenco staccato to a slow and soulfully stroked 12-string guitar’s cadence.  Time moves along just as it should and beautifully at that.  

Unlike other seasons, autumn lends itself especially well  to dwelling on what passes us by.  This week I talked with a young mother and was delighted to learn that her children would attend their grammar school’s Halloween Carnival later this month.  I immediately recalled the smell of my own childhood’s sweaty gymnasium carnival where the locker room had been decorated to pose as a Haunted House (I still jump out of my skin when anyone jumps at me from around a corner).  Someone’s mother dressed as a fortune teller and mused to us in an oddly convincing mix of a southern drawl and a bad composite of southern European accents as she peered into each child’s palm, predicting the great lives we would lead.  Children raced around that gym fueled by overdoses of sugar and their wildly vivid imaginations.  It was All Hallow’s Eve!  How fun that this mother’s children would get to enjoy the same experience I so fondly remembered from my own childhood!  But my trip down memory lane came to an abrupt halt when she told me that bobbing for apples was no longer allowed due to health concerns.  Oh, my.  I understand worries over communicable diseases as well as the next parent, but the death of the apple barrel has hit me surprisingly hard.  

I’ll let the bandwagon of dissent roll right past me without leaving my footprints in its bed.  I’ll spare you the spiel I feel brewing over the apple barrel’s demise, of all those things we’ll miss when we’ve allowed, moreover, asked them to leave us.  How much further will we isolate ourselves until we realize our bubbles are so heavy they can’t catch a breeze?

autumn flannel -
the warmth
of my father’s shirt

Here’s to timely, nostalgic comfort food!

Pumpkin Pie

For Crust:  (best to work with very cold ingredients!)

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour

½ c. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
½ c. powdered confectioner’s sugar

3 tbsp. whipping cream

For Filling:

¾ c. granulated sugar

¼ tsp (generous) salt
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar

16 oz. pumpkin
1 tbsp. cornstarch

¾ c. whipping cream
2 tsp. cinnamon

½ c. sour cream
¾ tsp. ground ginger

3 large eggs, beaten
¼ c. apricot preserves

For Crust:  Preheat oven to 350.  Blend flour and powdered sugar.  Add cold butter which has been cut into small pieces and working quickly so your hands will not melt the small pieces of butter.  Blend with pastry cutter or food processor until flour mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add cold whipping cream until moist clumps form.  Gather dough into ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 15-30 minutes.  Roll dough on floured surface to 14-inch round.  Transfer to 9-inch pie plate.  Trim overhang to 1 inch and fold overhang under.  Make cut in edge of crust at ½-inch intervals, bending alternate edge pieces inward.  Freeze for 15 minutes.  Line crust with foil, pressing firmly.  Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until pale brown, about 10 minutes more.  Remove pie from oven and reduce temperature to 325.

Spread preserves over crust.  

For Filling:  Using a whisk, mix sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt until no lumps remain.  Add pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.  Pour filling on top of preserves.  Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes.  Cool on wire rack; cover and chill.


  1. Thanks for the memories! I remember Trick o' Treating many a year dressed as a hobo with baggy old clothes and charcoal smudged on my face. My mother didn't sew and I suppose didn't want to spend the money on cheap dime-store costumes. We'd truck home with pillow cases half-full with candy and baggies of homemade goodies (remember that?) then dump all of it in the middle of the living room floor to sort into favorites.

    Will have to try this recipe. 'Tis the time for spicy pumpkin pie and tart apple crisp!

    1. Cousin Terri, I usually wore the cheap dime store I was writing this piece, I could almost feel the rasp of a plastic mask on my nose! I've always loved Halloween!

  2. Your prose reads like a poem, Susan, and took me back to those crisp October nights leading up to Halloween. I miss those times. Maybe I'll play spooky music on my stereo and give out candy to all manner of ghouls and goblins this year. :)

    Loved the 'ku too! Come to think of it, my dad wore flannel but my arms were too long to enjoy wearing his shirts. :)

    Can't wait to try the recipe. It sounds delicious!

    1. Thank you, Curtis...flannel's always been a favorite! This is my favorite time of year!

    2. Thanks for the memories, Suasan....I can still see in my mind's eye that fortune teller you spoke of. As for the migrating birds, their chirping cadence reminds me of the Alfred Hithcock movie "The Birds" which scared the bejezus outta me. Covered my face with a towel and could barely watch, peeping out to see the 1st scary movie I watched on the family tv. I belive it came before Shock Theatre or I wasn't allowed to watch that late.

      Loved the poem and the recipe makes my mouth water....Definitely gonna try it!

    3. Thanks for your kind words, Terri! Shock Theater? Dr. Paul Bearer shopping through a Fears catalog? Boris Karloff, anyone? LOVED that show!

  3. Dear Susan, As I have a "Quirk" that will not allow me to eat any type of dessert made from a vegetable(Carrot Cake Excepted) I know so many who love pumpkin pie. I once was elected to take the dessert to a gathering on TG and as I have this "Problem" I ended up making a pumpkin cheesecake, which went over really well , however, your recipe looks amazingly like that of my Grandmother and they did smell wonderful. Maybe, one day my tastes will change(as I once swore I would never touch Okra or Squash) but truly enjoy them now if they are cooked right. And everyone has offered me a Squash Casserole recipe they swear I will love.Love your Site and sent it to my friend in Michigan with the request that ge pass it on to his friends. He liked the last one and after I assured him not to believe those old North Carolina VW Commercials and the incredibly horrible fake accents from the movies and especially that there is no truth to the slower one speaks(That would never be my problem) how equal it is with a southerner's IQ. Assured him that you and Curtis were MAJOR exceptions LOL. Anyway, keep them coming, especially as the weather gets colder and you will make so many people happy. I would love to see it syndicated. BTW, I was searching high and low for my recipe for Cinnamon Apple Crisp, to no avail and as I do not cook that often anymore, do you or one of your readers have one they would not mind donating. Again, many thanks for the form, stories, recipes and Haikus / Which reminds me, I should send this to my former boss' brother in Hendersonville. NC as he is a great chef and poet and especially is a ,aster at Haikus. I think this would be a great match. Till next week...

    1. So sorry to learn of your food quirk with vegetables in desserts! I put 'em in everything.
      Thanks for your referral of this blog to your friends...we love new readers!

      And thanks, too, for explaining to your friend about a southern accent. I had a piece published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature a while back explaining that we speak slowly because we generally consider what will come out of our mouths before casting it onto another person - not that that's always the truth, but it sounds polite anyway ;)