When I got up Monday morning, it was 31°. Although the temperature eventually rose to 50°, I got so bogged down in Christmas preparations that I never did quite make it out for a walk. Yesterday it was 42° when I got up and 59° when I went out walking in midafternoon (later than planned). By that time, the sun had gone in, and the breeze had picked up, so it was a bit nippy. This morning when I got up it was 69° and fairly clear—just a few fluffy clouds. Now it is 72° and completely overcast, and I still haven’t gone out walking. Why? Certainly it is a great day for it (if I can beat the rain), but another task took priority.
Today being Christmas Eve, it is the day I bake a pumpkin pie. In theory, this could be done anytime during the day, but I have an established tradition of doing it while listening to the BBC broadcast of “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” from King’s College, Cambridge, which begins here at 9 a.m. Sure enough, as the selected chorister tremblingly began, “Once in royal David’s city…,” I was getting out my mixing bowl and spices, and as I write this, the pie is in the oven, and I am listening to the last of the service.
The pumpkin pie (as well as its creation) is one of the most immutable traditions of our Christmas. Some of the other trappings can be dispensed with (and many have been or will be this year), but we must have the pie! It is made from a traditional family recipe, and I receive compliments whenever I serve it, but every year as I make it, I wonder whether it is really better than the one printed on the label of the can of Libby’s pumpkin. It is certainly an inconvenient recipe, as it uses only 8 ounces of a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, leaving a remainder that never gets used up before it spoils, but it is traditional!
For those who may be interested in the recipe, here it is as I received it:
Honey Pumpkin Pie
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup strained honey
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
Mix sugar, salt, and spices. Stir in honey and pumpkin. Heat milk (to about 180°) and add with eggs. Beat well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 375° and continue to bake 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The filling will not be firm but will continue to cook while cooling.
I usually find the mixture easier to stir (especially on cold days) if I add the pumpkin before the honey, and I beat the eggs slightly and add them before the heated milk, which I add a little at a time. Heating the milk seems to give the pie a head start that allows it to bake in a somewhat shorter time than indicated in the Libby’s recipe. I like to think that the honey adds something (and of course if you use something other than ordinary clover honey, you will get a distinctive taste).
Now the service is over, my pie is out of the oven, and it’s not raining yet, so I guess I can go for a walk!