The Historical Pumpkin

The pumpkin is actually a gourd, belonging to the same family tree as cucumbers,
squash, and melons. It's name derived from the Old French word: pompion which
derived in turn from the Greek word Pepon which means "cooked by the sun".
Most likely native to Central America, the pumpkin was grown extensively by the
North American Native Americans prior to the European invasion. It was served
boiled and baked, made into a soup and was also dried and made into a meal that was
used as commonly as cornmeal in breads and puddings. The fruit was also preserved by
being cut into rings and hung to dry. The dried fruit was put to use through the winter
months.  So, it is quite likely that the pumpkin pie you serve on Thanksgiving Day had
its roots in that first Thanksgiving feast. In fact, it is said that in one Connecticut
community early in the nation's history when molasses could not be acquired for
pumpkin pies, the annual Thanksgiving celebration was delayed until the commodity
could be acquired. 

A seventeenth century writer described pumpkin preparation in this way:
"The Housewive's manner is to slice them when ripe and then into Dice, and so fill a
pot with them of two or three gallons and stew them upon a gentle fire the whole day. 
And as they sink they fill again with fresh Pompions not putting any liquor to them and
when it is stirred enough it will look like Baked Apples, this Dish putting Butter to it
and  a little Vinegar with some Spice as Ginger which makes tart like an Apple and so
serve it up to be eaten with fish and flesh."  Colonial uses of the pumpkin are also
chronicled in this ancient verse:

For pottage. and puddings. and custard, and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies.
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon
If it weren't for pumpkins, we should be undoon.

	The first pumpkin pies of the colonies were made by hollowing out the pumpkin and
discarding pulp and seeds and filling the shell with creamery milk and spices, much like
this recipe. Pumpkin pie prepared in this fashion was said to be a favorite of George

Pumpkin Pie sans Shell

1 5-8 lb. pumpkin
6 eggs
2 1/2 C whipping cream
3/4 C brown sugar
2 tbsp. molasses
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

Cut the lid from pumpkin as you would for making a jack-o-lantern. Remove pulp and
seeds from pumpkin, scraping quite clean. Save seeds for toasting later, if desired. In a
large bowl,  beat the eggs and add the cream, sugar, molasses, and spices. Beat smooth
and pour into the pumpkin shell. Dot with butter and replace lid. Set pumpkin on a
cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours or
until the mixture has set up like a custard pie.  Time will vary with size of pumpkin.
Serve directly from the pumpkin and instruct dinners to be sure to take a bit of the shell
with each scoop. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.
Serves 6-12, depending on size of pumpkin.

For more conventional pie recipes, you need to prepare the pumpkin pulp a little
differently. Here are instructions for preparing the pulp and for a variety of favorite
pumpkin pies.

Preparing Pumpkin Pulp

If you want to use your Halloween jack-o-lantern for Thanksgiving pies, it is better to
paint your decorations onto the pumpkin rather than clean and carve it. Once you have
opened the pumpkin to carve it, you accelerate the decomposition of the fruit.

 To cook the fresh pumpkin in the microwave, clean out pulp and seeds and cut the
pumpkin shell into chunks.  Put in a microwave safe bowl or casserole dish and cover
tightly with Saran wrap. Cook on medium setting in five minute increments until the
pulp is soft. Then scrape it out and discard the  shell. Process briefly in blender or food
processor.  Freeze the puree in pie-sized amounts  or use right away. 

	You can also prepare the pumpkin but cutting in half, scooping out the innards,
putting the halves, cut side down, on a cookie sheet and baking at 325 until it starts to
sag in the middle. Then scoop out the pulp and save as above.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

1 9 inch unbaked pie crust
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1/4 C sugar
3/4 C dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 2/3 C evaporated milk

Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugars, salt and spices. Gradually add evaporated milk. Mix
well. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, and then at 375 for about
40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.
Serve with whipped cream.
Store in loosely wrapped foil at room temperature.

Kentucky Praline Pumpkin Pie

1 9 inch unbaked pie shell
1/3 C finely chopped pecans
1/3 C dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 C pumpkin
1 1/4 C beaten Carnation evaporated milk.
1 tsp. Kentucky Sour Mash Bourbon (opt.  substitute 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
Preheat oven to 450.
Combine 1/3 C finely chopped pecans, 1/3 C dark brown sugar, and 3 tbsp. butter and
press into bottom of the unbaked pie shell.
Prick sides of shell and bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Combine all the
remaining mixture. Pour over pecan mixture. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until set.
Serve with whipped cream.

Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie

1/2 lb. (about 32 full sized)
1/2 C milk
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C heavy cream, whipped
1 9 inch pie shell

Place marshmallows, milk, pumpkin and seasonings in top of double boiler. Heat,
stirring, occasionally until marshmallows are melted. Mix well. Cool for about an hour.
Stir in 1/2 the whipped cream. Fold in remaining cream. Place in pie shell. Refrigerate
for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with whipped cream.
Yields 6 servings.

Ginger's Pumpkin Pie

1 pint canned or fresh pumpkin
1/2 pint milk
1/2 pint light cream
4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 C sugar
4 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
2 nine inch pie shells, unbaked

Place pumpkin, milk, cream and butter in a saucepan and heat just to scalding. Beat in
sugar, flour, salt and spices. Pour over eggs, beating as you pour. Divide between the two
pie shells. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and
bake 45 minutes longer or until center is firm.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 C water
1 1 lb. can pumpkin
3 eggs, separated
1 C sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 10 inch pie shell
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Dissolve gelatin in water. Combine pumpkin, egg yolk,s and 1/2 C sugar in the top of a
double boiler. Cook over boiling water until mixture begins to thicken. Add seasonings
and dissolved gelatin. Continue stirring until completely blended.  Remove from heat.
Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Add remaining sugar,
gradually as egg whites stiffen. Fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into
pie shell. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Whip cream, add vanilla and 1 or 2
tbsp. sugar. Top entire pie with whipped cream before cutting.

Top of the Stove Pumpkin Pie

3/4 C sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 tsp. ginger
1/3 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 C pumpkin
2 beaten eggs
1 C milk
7 marshmallows
baked pie shell
Whipped cream for garnish

Combine sugar, flour, salt and spices. Add pumpkin eggs, milk and marshmallows.
Cook in double boiler over boiling water until
thick and bubbly. Cool. Pour into baked pie shell and pipe on whipped cream. Yields 6-8

Of course, every family has its own traditional pumpkin pie to server for  Thanksgiving
and that pie is, always, invariably the very best, but if you are developing your
traditions, please try one of ours. 

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