There’s just something primordial about the Fall time of year. The nights get chilly, the leaves turn colors and things get quiet. It’s harvest time. The fruits and vegetables have been growing all summer and now they are ripe. Makes you want to go out and pick something. How about a pumpkin? Maybe you could even make a pumpkin pie
from scratch? Grandma always said that they were much tastier than the “store bought” variety. Haven’t got a clue? Well, the first thing you have to do is find the pumpkins. You could go down to the supermarket or the local Wal-Mart, but that just doesn’t seem to satisfy that need to pull something out of the ground. Here are a few of the best places to pull your pumpkin in the greater St. Louis
Illinois is by far and away the biggest producer of pumpkins for eating and displaying on porches in the U.S. It dwarfs its nearest competitor, Michigan. And after some initial worries about the drought, it looks like there will be a bumper crop this year. You can even credit the good crop to the dry weather. Despite their gooey innards, pumpkins don’t really need much water. Actually too much rain can be a bad thing, allowing a pumpkin-killing fungus called phytophthora to grow like crazy. Missouri hasn’t been as lucky as Illinois this year, there has been a lot of pumpkin death in the western part of the state because of recent heavy rain. But let’s not let a few pumpkins going up to visit the Great Pumpkin In The Sky cut back on any of the fun.
Relleke’s Pumpkin Patch is located in Granite City, Illinois about one mile north of Cahokia Mounds State Park. They are open daily during the month of October from 9-5. You can pick your own pumpkins and they also have festivals every weekend, pony rides, live music, crafts, games, food, and a petting zoo.
Braeutigan Orchards is in Belleville, Illinois just a few minutes over the river from downtown St. Louis. You can call them at (618) 233-4059 for directions. They are open during October M-F 8-6, Sat. 8-5, and Sunday 9-5. Besides picking the pumpkins, you can also pick peaches, blackberries, apples, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, cherries, and nectarines.
If you really want to stay on the Missouri side of the river, then check out Rombach Farms, about 45 minutes west of St. Louis in Chesterfield Valley. This place is pretty big. When you arrive, you will see pumpkins spreading out as far as the eye can see, leading right up to the 20 foot tall Great Pyramid of Pumpkins. If you look to the east and west, you’ll see wagons and wheelbarrows overflowing with pumpkins and more of them heaped in mounds throughout the U-Pic area. They also have novelty pumpkins that are red and white in color. Speaking of color, they also have a huge selection of vibrantly hued gourds in every size and shape. Check out the Amish furniture for sale, the produce stand, and the petting zoo before you leave.
Now that your pumpkin selections have all arrived home safely, you might want to make a pie from scratch, just like Grandma used to do. Remember to use the pumpkins that weigh in at about 4-5 pounds each. The larger ones aren’t very good for making pies.
Slice a pumpkin along the “meridians”, marked like the north and south poles by the flower and stem end. Then cut each piece in half along the “equator.” Clean out the seeds and stringy pulp. Place chunks skin side up on a pan or cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick coating. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until tender when poked with a fork. When tender, remove from the oven and cool slightly. Here’s a time-saving trick: rather than scraping out the pulp, pinch a blossom or stem end and, using it like a handle, simply peel back the skin. This is easier and less messy than scraping.
There are many time honored recipes and innovative variations for making a pumpkin pie, here’s one of the most basic.
1 1/2 cups (12oz can) evaporated milk
1 3/4 cups pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp clove
9-inch pie crust
Stir together sugar, salt and spices. In another large bowl, beat eggs lightly. Then stir in pumpkin, spice mixture and then slowly stir in the evaporated milk. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake at 425F for 15 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to 350F and bake for another 40-50 minutes. Let cool for at least 2 hours before serving, to allow pie to set up.
There you go, easy as pie wasn’t it?