While at the county fair recently I saw the pumpkins were beginning to come in! Pumpkins can be harvested as early as mid-August and will store well if handled carefully so as to avoid bruising. A pumpkin is ready to be harvested if it is uniformly orange, the rind is firm and cannot be broken with a fingernail, and there is a nice “thunk” sound when you tap it. For those of us with no yard (or a brown thumb) you can buy your pumpkin for this recipe mashed and canned at the local grocery.
While here in America pumpkin pie is most often associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, pumpkin pie is a hearty treat that dates back to the 1670s and was served throughout harvest time and beyond because pumpkins store well. The first actual recipe for a pumpkin pie was most likely created by a French chef. The Pilgrims may have had some sort of pumpkin dish at that “first Thanksgiving” but they lacked ovens to bake the pie crust so, no pies. Pumpkins were originally called pumpions (from the Greek pepon, meaning large melon, Frenchified to pompon, Anglicized to pumpion) and while various recipes existed with pumpkin tarts, puddings, and other dishes that included raisins, apples and currants, the first American cook book with a pumpkin pudding similar to our pumpkin pies didn’t come along until1796.
If you make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving or for whenever, you will be enjoying a truly American dish from a squash native to this continent.
Slightly beat 2 eggs & add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teas each cloves, allspice & cinnamon. Then add 1 c pumpkin. Add 1 1/2 c milk. Mix thoroughly. Pour into a pie pan lined with pastry & bake until firm. A hot oven will be required, reducing heat after 5 minutes.
I was never a fan of pumpkin pie growing up until a friend made me try her version–made with pumpkin that she cooked and mashed herself. Sadly, it wasn’t actually grown by her. I don’t if it was the fresh pumpkin or that she added lots and lots of spices that made it so yummy. I actually have a recipe that I think beats her’s–it uses maple syrup as a sweetener. Most pioneer era cooks didn’t have refined sugar available so their sweeteners were mostly molasses or maple syrup. It’s a great pie, but the strangest to make. It’s so runny that I always think it will never bake, but it does and it’s yummy with a dash of whipped cream barely sweetened and with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg (and yes, it’s sacrilegious to serve such a yummy homemade pie with “whipped cream” from a can. It’s not real and it’s wrong.).
I hope you will share that recipe with me! I definitely think the home cooked pumpkin (or even sweet potatoes) can improve a pie tremendously. The pumpkin we get in a can is so processed it surely loses some of the natural flavors of the gourd meat. Home cooked doesn’t have to have the additional preservatives either and is more fresh, being as you can take it from the kettle to the pie pan.