Pumpkin Custard No. 1My cousin Christopher asked for a Thanksgiving dessert that was not pie — yet could still be made ahead — and that offered a twist on the familiar. If you’re in the same market, read on.

Grammy’s sheaf of recipes contained not one, not two, but three recipes for pumpkin custard. Was this a great favorite of hers? Were there more pumpkins in the early 20th century, necessitating more ways of dealing with the produce? Or did she just not really focus on the fact that she was including three recipes?

The three are different enough from each other that I decided to try at least two. The third, which calls for red wine, I’m going to hold in reserve. It may be great; it could be dreadful. I may throw that at you in February.

And I decided to make them the way Grammy did, with Libby’s canned pumpkin. (I can still sing the Libby’s jingle; you all are lucky that I don’t link to a sound file of my singing here.) I have cooked my own pumpkin, and fellow-cook District Domestic just did a great post on how to cook pumpkin. If I have time and freezer-space, maybe I’ll cook more pumpkin. For this recipe, however, the pumpkin is a vehicle for other flavors, so canned is perfect.

Pumpkin custard number two was shaky and thin, made with evaporated milk and less spice. This is the winner: Pumpkin custard No. 1. It’s a rich and interesting pumpkin pie with no crust — good for gluten-intolerants and those leery of crust-making alike. I made it with whole milk, but I want someone try it with light cream and tell me how it goes!

Pumpkin Custard No. 1

Serves 6

  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups light cream or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, sugars and molasses. Add spices and salt, melted butter, beaten eggs and cream or milk. Mix well.

Butter a 2-quart casserole. Pour mixture into casserole, set the whole thing in a pan of warm water,* and place in preheated oven. Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until set (top will rise up and crack a bit). Allow to cool before serving; serve warm, room temperature or cold. Can be baked one day ahead and refrigerated.

*I found that my 2-quart round casserole fit perfectly in an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. If you have to use a larger pan, consider putting the nested pans on the oven shelf first, and THEN filling the outside pan with water — saves that nightmarish wobbly carry across the floor.

Recipe and photograph copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC