Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time for a Break

T calls in the morning, reminding me to bring the sack of wheat I have at home from the summer harvest (part of a diversified grain storage plan intended to minimize rodent risk).  “Left it in the classroom at drop-off,” I tell her, just before getting into the shower.  There’s an hour before garden class starts and despite the seeming folly of showering before gardening, I’m just that much in need of a shower that it can’t wait.  When I get out of the comforting steam, my phone has two urgent messages from T: “Help!  I left the cooked pumpkin and pie recipe at home.  Do you have the Joy of Cooking?  Call me.” And “Oh, and I somehow forgot the cream, can you stop and get two pints of heavy cream on your way over?”

I’m not worried about the pumpkin, as we still have several massive heirloom pumpkins sitting around, so we can throw another one in the oven.  And pumpkin pie happens to be one of the things I feel don’t need a recipe.  I’m more worried about T, that the constant onslaught of tiny details and broad visions of what more we can do has worn her down to this state of exhaustion.  Good thing we have a week off for Thanksgiving next week.  

Turns out, today she has the perfect pre-holiday class planned: pumpkins galore.  The kids are tired, too, and restless, so it seems like a good day to be less ambitious than usual and just enjoy the fruits of our harvest (or, that is, the vegetables).  

We divide into two groups: half go to work on the pie project and half make (fully compostable!) Thanksgiving decorations to take home.  And, lo and behold!  Somehow, despite the fact that the pie prep wasn’t done as planned, we are eating it by the end of class, reminding the kids of how they planted the pumpkin starts last spring.  


So, along the theme of everyone needing a break, I will now fail to wrap up a nice little essay and instead provide some pics of what a beautiful day it was.   (And of course, the pie recipe.)



Pumpkin Pie

In the spring, as a last-minute afterthought to the corn planting, plant some heirloom pumpkins along the edges of the cornfield.

When summer ends, discover that the pumpkins have thrived from the thrice-weekly watering of the corn.  Tenderly move the vines and drag the giant pumpkins away from the tetherball courts that they have claimed as their own.

Load them up into wheelbarrows and share the harvest with all the faculty and staff who have supported the garden program.  Keep a few for seed-saving and cooking.

Cut into quarters (halves would be too big to fit in the oven), scrape out the seeds (for next year) and pulp, and bake until soft.  Scape flesh from shell and mash.

Beat three eggs, add enough mashed pumpkin to make two pies, mix with 3/4 cup brown sugar and a pint or so of heavy cream, a pinch of salt, and whichever spices the kids want to add (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger). For extra fun, let the kids put a fingerful of ground cloves on their tongues.  Make sure they have a clear path to the water fountain.

Pour into crust* a bake about an hour.

*School Garden Vegan Crust

Okay, you might be noticing that we are not so good with actual recipes.  I think this might be great for the kids, as they see how you can improvise and be creative.  On the other hand, I personally like to have a recipe from which to work.  Our pie crust started with an old Joy of Cooking recipe and morphed from there.  The ingredient breakdown went something like this:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour   
a handful of blue cornmeal (adds a great nutty flavor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold Earth Balance fake butter
6 tablespoons ice cold water
we would have added a dash of ground cardamom but we forgot

Cut the fake butter into the flour/salt/cornmeal with forks or a pastry cutter.  Dribble in enough of the water to form the dough into a ball.  Roll out as best you can (it won’t be as elastic as a white flour crust), then do your best to transfer it into a cast iron pan (or pie tin).  We had to do a lot of re-assembly in the pan, pinching it back together.  The lesson: pie doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.  Of course, a pastry cloth or wax paper would have made a smoother counter-to-pan transfer, but we use what we have, which is often our hands.

 Pour in the filling and throw that baby in the oven.  Do not do not do not fret that the kids will not like the whole wheat cornmeal crust.  They will LOVE it.  Really and truly, they did. 

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