Thanksgiving and pumpkin pies just go together, in my opinion!
I remember watching Momma make pumpkin pies for the holidays -- especially at Thanksgiving. While she prepared the homemade crusts, I'd sit on a stool near the counter and watch. Her hands would work the dough as the rolling pin flew back and forth across it. Then she'd flip it and do it again.
When the crust was big enough 'round to cover the inside of the pan and come up over the sides, Momma gently laid it inside -- almost like putting a baby to bed. Then, with one hand, she'd twirl the pan slowly while with the other, a sharp knife would slice off the extra dough hanging over the edges. Last, but not least, she'd "crimp" the edges to make pretty patterns like those pictured below.
The scraps that fell from her knife were all mine -- and I knew just what to do with them! When my enthusiasm with the rolling pin threatened to tear the tender dough, Momma would remind me to handle it ever-so-gently. It took more than a few tries, but after I rolled it out just-so, I'd slather butter on it and sprinkle a cinnamon-sugar mix on top of the entire piece.
We would then cut it in 1-inch-wide strips and place it on a cookie sheet for baking. I could hardly wait for it to come out of the oven! Those baked cinnamon strips were a melt-in-your-mouth home made experience ... but one that had to be shared with all my siblings.
Momma's pies were always made with just the right mixture of Libby's canned pumpkin, eggs, milk, butter and sugar, along with the perfect balance of nutmeg, cinnamon and all spice. Our electric mixer would whip it to a lovely height while the smell of spices tickled my nose.
After the filling was in those lovely crusts, Momma would decorate them with a cookie-cutter pumpkin shape made of scraps of dough she'd reserved for that purpose. Then, with all the love and care of a domestic goddess, she'd slide her pies into the oven.
Once that happened, we children were reminded not to run or jump in the kitchen. Pies in the makin' must not be shaken! The whole house smelled like Thanksgiving on those days, and I could hardly wait until it was time for our special holiday meal. Momma's pies were the crowning touch after a chicken and dressing meal complete with all the trimmings: Mashed potatoes, homemade gravy (always made with giblets), homemade yeast rolls, corn, beans and of course, the cranberry sauce.
When our children were growing up, we carried on the same pie-baking day traditions. Just like me, they enjoyed rolling out scraps of dough to sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Once in the oven, they watched through the glass door or sometimes called from another room of the house, "Are they done yet?"
While I finished preparing the pies, they would decide on a special shape for the decorations on top. I've collected a lot of cookie cutters over the years, and during the holidays, the kids enjoyed dumping them all out on the table to sort and admire. We made lots of tea-cake cookies of various shapes and sizes with those cookie cutters, but when Thanksgiving pies were baked, the children chose a thematic topper -- a pilgrim, turkey, pumpkin or leaf shape.
This year, our daughter, son-in-law and grandson Ethan are coming home for Thanksgiving. Our son Kevin will be here for dinner that day, too, along with one of my four sisters AND my Momma. I'm planning to make pumpkin pies again, just like she used to make.
She's altered her recipe through the years, but I don't think you can improve on perfection. So I stick to the original ... the one I remember Momma making when I grew up. No matter how you cut it, you just can't beat a homemade pumpkin pie that's full of just the right combination of ingredients ... and pleasant memories to match.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!