We’re in the thick of winter around these parts. As I write this, note that it about 70 degrees today with a light southerly breeze and sunny skies, so perhaps my choice of description, i.e. thick of winter, isn’t totally accurate. Sorry to all you folks out there whose weather is not, errr… ‘ideal’. Got to love the Lowcountry, though!
However, if we look at comparables in produce that can be found at the local grocery during this time of year, I think we are all in the same boat. Yes, I see zucchini from Mexico and pineapple from Costa Rica but what about fresh, local (or regional) veggies and fruit? In my case this means gourds, greens (like kale and collards) and perhaps some carrots (from the farmers market). Butternut and acorn squash have both been long-time favorites in my family. But what to make? One can only eat so much roasted acorn squash in one winter.
After choosing a butternut squash, I dusted off some old family cookbooks, and thought about which combination of ingredients could be delicious and unique. I settled on a pie, similar to the rich butternut ones I made with my mother back in the day, but with a lighter consistency. Nothing says “light” like chiffon so voilà, the butternut chiffon pie was born.
I also have been experimenting in the kitchen with one of my favorite spirits, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, in different ways and I must admit it is exceptional in this recipe. I used the “skinny’ version of this flavored vodka, the tea-infused essence really gives the filling an extra punch and compliments the spices nicely. I think either the “skinny” or the regular version would both result in equally delicious fillings.
Firefly Distillery is located in nearby Wadmalaw Island (just outside Charleston, SC) and you can read more about their products, history and what not on their website. They also offer several other flavored small batch vodkas, a bourbon and produce a very good muscadine wine. The grapes for the wine are grown on-site and the tea used in all their tea-infused products comes from their neighbors at Charleston Tea Plantation.
I believe there isn’t anything much better than a cool Firefly lemonade on a warm Lowcountry afternoon… especially if there is a porch…a breeze… and like-minded friends involved. Toss in some local seafood on the grill and this butternut Firefly chiffon pie, and by golly, you’ve got yourself a party!
Butternut Firefly Chiffon Pie
- 1 envelope gelatin
- 3 tbl Firefly Vodka mixed with 2 tbl water
- 1 ½ cups cooked, mashed butternut squash*
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ginger People spread (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 baked & cooled graham cracker crust
- Ground nutmeg, for garnish
Separate the eggs. In a large bowl beat egg yolks and add 1/2 cup sugar, squash, half & half, salt, and spices. Cook until thick in double boiler stirring or whisking constantly. Soak gelatin in vodka/water mixture until dissolved, stir and add to the squash mixture. When it begins to thicken, remove from the stove, stir in the vanilla extract and allow to cool completely (to room temperature).
Beat egg whites with the 1/3 cup sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at time until stiff peaks form.** Fold into the squash mixture until combined. Pour into a baked and cooled pie shell and chill to set, at least 1 hour. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg just before serving.
* To prepare the puree from fresh butternut squash: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split a medium to large butternut squash in half and remove seeds. Spray with canola or light olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.PLace on a cookie sheet and back in the oven until cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, unwrap and allow to cool so you can handle. Scoop out the cooked flesh and either puree in a food processor or blender, or run through a food mill to get a smooth puree.
** This recipe uses raw egg whites in the filling.