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Published: Sunday, 10/7/2012

COMMENTARY

Autumn landscape colors, produce are in harmony

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
BLADE COLUMNIST

Come on in, October, we have been waiting for you with mixed emotions. To those of us who love autumn, the vibrant splashes of color will end all too soon.

But there are probably just as many people who fail to enjoy October’s gifts and prefer instead to look at it as a harbinger of the cold months to come.

No one dislikes the bitter cold and snow season more than I do and I have dreaded it since childhood when I walked two miles to school cold, wet, and disgusted that my ancestors settled in Michigan instead of in Florida, California, or Hawaii. How cool would that have been?

But, right here, right now, is that special time when the landscape colors are in harmony with seasonal produce with pumpkins leading the parade. 

Even though there is no shortage of turning colors in the Irish Hills, we headed three hours north to Clare, Mich., Sunday to compare “their” color with ours. Sure enough, the further north you travel the more vibrant the changing trees.

Each fall I am amazed by the thousands of pumpkins in all shapes that are stacked high at roadside markets. The bright orange, hard-shelled fruit must be easy to grow and take well to all soil and weather conditions because last summer’s drought doesn’t appear to have decreased the supply.

Selecting just the right pumpkin and carving it into a piece of amateur art or using it to decorate the porch is a delightful October tradition. But what about all the pumpkins that don’t make it as jack ‘o lanterns or decorations?

Pumpkins that rot and are smashed and trashed are an example of food waste in America. We just don’t look at a beautiful fresh pumpkin as food and a valuable ingredient that could supplement the food bill.

Granted, fresh pumpkin versus canned is not much of a debate. Canned is easier. I have been so caught up in pioneer ways that I left the can opener in the drawer and steamed, peeled, and seeded a fresh pumpkin. The result was watery and it was back to good old Libby pumpkin puree and the recipe that has been on the label since 1950.

Most of the pumpkins that are used by Libby are grown on 5,000 acres near Morton, Ill., which claims to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World. Because Libby holds the rights to the Dickinson variety, which is a sweeter, heavier fruit than the Halloween pumpkin, home gardeners are barred from growing it. 

About 500,000 pumpkins are processed daily at the Libby plant at Morton in peak season.

Do I dare compare the first Thanksgiving pumpkin pies with the grass-roots version that swept the country in the 1970s? Remember the Impossible pies that were not assembled with a crust, but one formed magically during the baking? 

Pilgrim pies were also crustless. The pumpkins were baked whole and filled with a custard, according to culinary history.

Unworkable recipes are often declared as being impossible. But those in the Impossible pie collection are successful because Bisquick is the star ingredient and you can’t bake one without it. 

One of the first convenience products to shorten baking preparation, Bisquick was introduced by General Mills in 1930.

Coconut Cream was the first Impossible pie to get national addition and it was followed by several varieties, including pumpkin.

For the record, the proper name now is Impossibly Easy Pies. The company felt compelled to change the name, but according to my recipe box it will always be:

ImpossiblePumpkin Pie

¼ cup sugar

½ cup buttermilk baking mix (Bisquick)

1 13-ounce can evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten lightly

1 16-ounce can pumpkin

2½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 10- inch pie dish, 1½ inches deep or a 9-inch pie dish 1¼ inches deep.

Combine all ingredients and beat on high speed for one minute. Pour into greased pie dish. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until golden and the center tests done.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com



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