Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baking a Pumpkin Pie From Scratch - Sharing American Thanksgiving Traditions in Ukraine

Yesterday I celebrated my third Thanksgiving in Ukraine with a few of the other Peace Corps Volunteers from Kharkiv oblast, and a few of my teacher friends from school. We crammed 12 people into my bedroom and used pretty much all the dishes and silverware that I have in my apartment! I baked a whole chicken, made mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing with salo (the weird cold pork fat that Ukrainians love), chocolate chip cookies and baked pumpkin pie from scratch! It took a few hours of cooking in my tiny kitchen but everything turned out well. Shannon brought us some homemade cranberry sauce and my teachers brought traditional Ukrainian "goluptse" (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice) and salads. I was very thankful to be surrounded by my friends in Ukraine, these past two years would not have been the same without them!
with my teachers Sveta, Anna, Lilia, Larisa, Ira and Aliona.
my friends on the other half of the table - Kali, Stas, Ed, Yuan, Danny, Shannon and Anna. 
Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, and I've tried to keep the tradition going even while living in Ukraine. Here's how I baked the pumpkin pie - I used a homegrown pumpkin that came from my teacher Larisa's garden. The pumpkin was probably about 5 pounds and shaped like a squash. I peeled the skin with a potato peeler, and sliced the pumpkin into small chunks.

It may look like a squash, but its definitely a pumpkin!
I boiled it until the pumpkin was soft, then drained it and mashed it with a potato masher. This probably loses most of the pumpkin flavor (and all the vitamins), but it works. If I was at home, I would have used that canned pumpkin anyways and I figure that mashed fresh pumpkin is still better than canned stuff with preservatives.
It turned out to be a lot more pumpkin than I expected. 
Don't mind my scary-looking pot. I swear its normal!
 I added eggs, milk, sugar and the spices - dried ginger, nutmeg (мускатный орех), cloves, cinnamon, salt. All of these can be found in Ukraine at a supermarket. Cinnamon and ginger can be found at smaller convenience-store type "produktys".  Then I mixed everything together with the potato masher and a whisk, and poured it into the pie crust. The pie crust was the "easy oil pie crust recipe" from our Peace Corps "Babushka's Kitchen" cookbook. I don't particularly like this recipe, as it was dry and crumbly (even though I added more milk than the recipe called for). So I won't share the recipe with you here, because I think you can probably find a better recipe by just googling pie crust recipes.

Crusts, spices, and Ukrainian milk in a baggie (milk is rarely sold in cardboard boxes here, and the baggies are always "sealed" with clothespins).
Into the oven!
I baked the smaller pie for 45 min and the larger one for 1 hour, until a toothpick came out clean in the middle. I have to watch my baked goods carefully because my oven doesn't have a thermometer, it pretty much only has 2 settings - on and off. The pie bubbled up a little but otherwise turned out pretty much like a pumpkin pie should! Now, if only I had some whipped cream to serve them with :) They actually do sell whipped cream in the city of Kharkiv, at large supermarkets, but its kind of expensive so unfortunately its a luxury which is out of my budget.

There's nothing like the smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie!
I used the basic pumpkin pie recipe from our Peace Corps "Babushka's Kitchen" cookbook, volume 3. This cookbook is mass distributed to all PCVs in Ukraine during our first 3 months of training, and its great because it has a lot of classic American dishes adapted to Ukrainian ingredients. I doubled the recipe and made 2 pies because I had a lot of mashed pumpkin.

The pages from "Baba's" cookbook. 
Here is the actual recipe that I used (except I doubled this to make 2 pies):

  • 2 cups mashed pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups 1.5% milk
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (320g)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 Easy Oil Pastry
Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends!


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