January can be a tricky time of year for sharing “farm-fresh” recipes. We are digging deep into the freezer for our own dinners, which highlights the somewhat random assortment of food we put up during the busy growing season: frozen zucchini chunks have been delicious in vegetable curries, basil pestos have saved us on more than one busy night, but how did we not make enough tomato soup to even get through January?
Since we can’t be sure what is left in your freezer or pantry, we scratched our heads for for a recipe that would highlight items in the mid-winter farmstore. Of course it was right under our noses: a pile of farm-grade eggs and a potentially overzealous stash of winter squash were taking up a fair amount of space in the yurt kitchen. Know what uses both winter squash and eggs? Pie! Or, as we almost always make it, crust-less pie, which we call pumpkin custard. (We’re not sticklers for terminology on this, as we also make it with winter squash). We skip the crust for a host of reasons….the filling is the healthier part of a squash pie, so now we can totally justify eating it for breakfast; one of us had to stop eating gluten a few years ago, and we haven’t gone through the effort of experimenting with gluten-free pie crust options; and finally, it’s so much faster and easier, we are more likely to make it this way!
Of course, if you see the crust as the best part of a pie, by all means pour this filling into your favorite pie crust recipe.
For one 9-inch pan of pie or custard:
2 cups cooked Salmon River squash, or any winter squash you have on hand.*
1 cup of milk or 1/2 & 1/2 (or coconut milk for the dairy-free / coconut lovers)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey, or 1/3 cup sugar. Note: Adjust sweetener to your taste; a lot depends on the sweetness of the squash you start with, and your preferences. This recipe reflects the sweeter end of our range, which is not exactly normal. Feel free to use double (or more) the sweetener if you have more standard American taste buds.**
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend, or 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and a small dash of ground clove (adjust to your taste). Substituting 1-2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger is lovely, too. Experiment to find your best combination.
Preheat the oven to 375. Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl or large glass measuring cup. Mix until smooth with an immersion blender, wire whisk, or manual egg-beater. NOTE: If you need to do a lot of tasting and adjusting, it would be good food safety practice to mix the eggs in last, after settling on your sugar level.
Pour mixture into an un-greased pie pan and bake approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For best taste and texture we try to let it cool to room temperature, or chill before serving.
If you like how it turns out, we highly recommend doubling the recipe next time and have one pan left over for breakfast.
*To cook your squash: The Lower Salmon River Squash, like Hubbard squash, have a thick skin. This makes them excellent storage varieties, often lasting well into the next summer. It does make them a little more work to get into, but it’s worth it. Tips for opening hard-shelled squash: resist the urge to use a big thick butcher knife just because this is a big job. I prefer to use my smallest paring knives for opening squash, because the thin blade slips in easier, not needing to create as large of a space. Work your way around it slowly with the small knife, or use the small one to get started, then get the big knife in. Alternately, drop the squash on the floor a few times to get a good crack started, then work out from there. When you have it open, scoop the seeds out (feed them to chickens if you have them!) and bake, face-down in a pan with a little bit of water, at 350-375 for 30-45 minutes, or until the flesh pierces easily with a fork.
**We like to eat this dish as breakfast food with yogurt, as well as for dessert, and quite often we don’t add any sweetener at all to squash custards unless we are taking them to share with others. But don’t assume we’re completely virtuous….it just makes the sugar rush we get when farm members bring us more standardly sweetened treats all the more exciting.