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Nothing tastes more like Thanksgiving than pumpkin…in pie, cheesecake, pastry or pretty much any form. Sure, there’s the delicious turkey and stuffing duo, but even that may be subject to change. When the Thanksgiving Bird runs low at (or runs away from) local grocery stores, it’s up to the Thanksgiving Ham to find another palatable partner to fill that lonely spot on the dining table…tofu turkey, anyone?VIDEO: It may seem quiet at first, but if you listen carefully, this kitchen’s hard at work…and just in time for Thanksgiving.
But we can always count on the subtly sweet cinnamon and spicy nutmeg-ginger flavors when the holidays come around. Ask my dad. He’d tell you that Thanksgiving’s really all about the pumpkin pies, which he’s been making from scratch for as long as I can remember. Before the Halloween decorations are taken down, Dad’s already stocking up on ingredients, getting a few extra cans of pumpkin in case of a shortage. He’s known as the “Pumpkin Pie Guy” to family, friends and neighbors, and if we’re lucky, he’ll bake a couple pre-Thanksgiving pies to make sure the flavors are precisely the way Tutu used to make them.
Just this past weekend, the pumpkin pie bake-off began. I hung out with Dad in the kitchen, as he carefully crafted his first batch of pies for the year. He’s been a carpenter for 38 years, but his skills with a hammer and nail are nothing compared to him crafting a pie crust. The ingredients were lined up neatly on the kitchen counter before him as he studied the tattered recipe blueprint in one hand, measuring tool in the other. It was Tutu’s secret recipe that he’s made over and over again but somehow hasn’t committed to memory just yet. He still says he needs more practice.
Light trades let themselves into my parents’ quiet Kaneohe kitchen. Dad carefully counting to himself as he added more ingredients to the mound in the mixing bowl, navigating between the sink and the counter while being careful not to step on my scavenging dog, who patiently awaited those tasty crumbs from the heavens. I watched as he meticulously wiped up his work area before moving on to the next step–a good baker is a tidy one! Dad gently massaged the crust mixture between his rough fingers until a sticky dough appeared, which he then rolled into two medium-size balls. My favorite part was watching him flatten those round globes of dough into two crust canvases ready to be filled. Putting some TLC into making the pie crust just right.
After more mixing and measuring, the pies were ready to be baked. A quiet sizzle from the pie pan to oven rack contact meant they were happy to be home, all toasty and warm. One hour later and Freddy Crocker’s creations are out of the oven and onto the cooling rack, cueing my mouth to water in anticipation. I now take back what I said about the crust making being my favorite part; it’s definitely the eating part, though I still think the secret’s in the crust. The Pumpkin Pie Dad and a savory slice of his creation. Don’t forget the whipped cream!
It’s not too late to get your pumpkin fix as well, with dozens of local businesses taking our favorite holiday flavor to the next level.
Kauai Papalani – pumpkin pie gelato ($3.75, single scoop; $5.75, double scoop)
Poipu Shopping Village • papalanigelato.com • 808-742-CONE (2663)
Maui Coffee Co. – pumpkin pie coffee ($19.95/lb.)
Lahaina, Maui or Online • mauicoffeeco.com • 1-800-909-5662
Royal Kona Coffee – pumpkin spice Kona Coffee, $6.75 for 8-oz. bag
Kona, Hawaii or Online • www.royalkonacoffee.com • 1-800-338-8353
Sureshot Cafe – pumpkin cheesecake ($4/slice)
Honolulu, Hawaii • www.sureshotcafe.com • 808-523-BEAN (2326)
Zippy’s Restaurants – pumpkin is November’s flavor of the month; assorted pumpkin-flavored sweets (doughnuts, turnovers, bread pudding)
All over Oahu • www.zippys.com • 808-973-0880
And of course, our very own blogger Serena Kaldi’s pumpkin curry and pumpkin pie milkshake recipes, made with locally-grown ingredients. Yum! So good for our tummies and a more sustainable Hawaii.