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Sugar and not too much spice

One key to perfect pumpkin pie is moderating spice

One key to perfect pumpkin pie is moderating spice

October 25, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

It's that time of year when cooks start talking pumpkin.

Just don't go overboard with the cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg - spice standards when it comes to pumpkin dishes. Also, go easy on the ginger and cloves.

"You want to get a balance. You want it to still taste like pumpkin," said Perry Sanders, owner of Sanders' Cookie Jar Bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The fall fruit is easily adaptable for everyday recipes ranging from muffins to soup to chili, according to local bakers and pumpkin growers. Pumpkins also are packed with beta carotene, an antioxidant linked to immune health, vision and healthy skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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It helps, however, to know a thing or two about the pumpkin's makeup before including it in a recipe. Pumpkin's moist consistency might mean cutting back on other ingredients such as oil and shortening, particularly for muffin and bread recipes, Sanders said.

There's also the matter of picking the right pumpkin. Mid-sized baking pumpkins and cushaw squash are ideal for pumpkin dishes, local growers say, but finding a good locally grown pumpkin might pose a challenge this year.

Dry weather conditions this summer put a damper on the local pumpkin harvest throughout the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, South-Atlantic and Midwestern states.

"We lost about 30 percent of the yield," said Kurt Britner, co-owner of Britner Produce in Williamsport. Britner said the farm only produced about 50 bushels of pumpkins this year.

Things weren't much better at Orr's Farm Market in Martinsburg, W.Va., said Katy Trenary, market manager. Trenary said the farm usually has plenty of homegrown pumpkins to sell in the fall, but this year they had to purchase pumpkins from Ohio because the harvest was so bad.

"The drought really impacted volume this year," Trenary said.

But the bad harvest won't stop Trenary from enjoying one her favorite dishes come Thanksgiving: her grandma Grace Knipe's pecan pumpkin pie. It's not just your average pie with pecans dusted on the top.

Once cooked, the pecan layer becomes firm and crisp, like a crust.

"It has two layers," Trenary said. "One, I guess you would say, is your pumpkin pie layer. On top of that is the pecan. But it's more of a crust, a pecan gel."

Trenary, with Grandma's approval, shared the recipe with The Herald Mail.

"It's a family tradition," Trenary said. "It's something we always have to have."

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