Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mini Pumpkin Pies (in a jar)

As you may or may not remember from my last post, I said I was going to undertake the world of canning!!!!  Let me tell you... there's a lot to learn!  First off, let me say I have canned baked stuff before (cakes and pies for deployed friends) and I got rave reviews.  So while I'm waiting for my delivery of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers (all of which I'll share with you when I get it!), I decided to try my hand once again at packaging up my honey's favorite dessert... pumpkin pie :)

Aside from Thanksgiving, fall, holiday, etc.... I'm sure this image is what you immediately think of when you hear "Pumpkin Pie." And while it tastes the same, what we're doing today sure doesn't look the same.

First, gather your ingredients.  Now, while I do make a mean pumpkin pie, it certainly isn't from scratch.  This girl doesn't cut open a pumpkin, de-seed it, chop it, mush it up, and create a glorious homemade crust to hold it all in.  I take the easy route:

1 can Libby Easy Pumpkin Pie MIX (the DARK orange can)
3/4 of a can Eagle Brand sweet condensed milk (the maroon can)
2 eggs pre-beaten, then added
a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice (roughly 1/2 - 1 tablespoon, depending on how much spice you like)

1 package of 2 refrigerated pie crusts (yes, you will use both)
1 case (12 jars total) of "jelly" mason jars (I used the Kerr 4 oz, regular mouth jars with lids and rings)

Then, preheat your oven to 425.

While it warms up, prep your jars.
Wash and dry them really well and set the tops/rings aside.

Get your pie crusts out, roll out on a floured surface, and cut out little crusts to put inside the jars.  I picked a cup about one inch wider in diameter than the jars, this way you can spread the crust as close to the top as possible and get more filling inside. Using the edges of your fingers/knuckles (avoid nails tearing the crusts because the filling will then leak out between the jar and the crust and it looks yucky) mold the crusts to the shape of the jar.  Don't make it too thin or it's more likely to stick to the jar when trying to eat it later on.  When you have all 12 crusted, put them on a cookie sheet.

Mine probably could've used about 5 more minutes
on the front end to get a "crispier" top!

Now you'll mix the filling, using all the ingredients above, making sure to blend everything well.  Using a scoop with a funneled edge (this makes it easier) pour the filling into the crusted jar about 5/6 of the way, leaving a small amount of room for the pie filling to expand.  Put the pies in the pre-heated oven for about 8 minutes.  When that 8 minutes is up, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes.  **This is based on my really old electric oven.  Times may vary for you, just keep an eye and a nose on it**  With about 5-10 minutes left, put your tops and rings in HOT water and boil, to help the rubber seal expand/soften a bit.  This way, when you put it back on the jar and tighten, you get a much better seal!  We don't want any oxygen getting to these bad boys, as they will spoil much more quickly.  When you're all done you should have some fantastic looking mini pies :)

Immediately top them with the lids and rings.  This will prevent you from having to do the "hot bath" or "oven" method to seal.  Using some oven mitts or tongs or however you want to do it, get the lids and rings on all the pies, tighten as much as you can, and let them cool after they've been completely sealed.  After a few minutes you'll hear some squeaks and pops from the sealed jars... this means you've done it correctly!  When pressed, the tops should feel firm, with very little to no give.  Let them cool completely, label them with the date you made them, and ship them off to your loved ones, making sure to package them with A LOT of love and stuffing to prevent breaking in shipment.  Although I wouldn't test it out myself, people say these bad boys will last up to a year like this.  Realistically, I wouldn't give them more than 3 or 4 months (and honestly, my hubby will probably have them all eaten within 2!)

You can apply this same logic to other types of pies and even to cake in any size from these minis to quart-sized.  For the tiny ones, you basically half the amount of time the "box" says to bake for.  Adjust accordingly for the larger sizes; typically you bake the quart size for the same time as listed for "cupcakes" - but you can always check for consistency with a toothpick.

It's fun and tasty and so far all the guys I've sent them to have LOVED them.  It's a fantastic little taste of home and a great way to cheer them up :)

Now get to baking!!

Until next time (where you'll probably get more canning ventures from me)...

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