What is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner without a healthy serving of pumpkin pie? This classic dessert is so aligned with holidays that you may even think the pilgrims feasted on slices of this treat during the first Thanksgiving. Although pumpkins were present when the pilgrims and natives dined together in 1621, their preparation of this squash is much different that how we’ll serve it next week.
Most scholars agree that pumpkins originated in South America more than 7,000 years ago. Over time a variety of squashes, including pumpkin, became native to the New England area. Native Americans of the region most likely prepared pumpkin in slices and roasted it directly on hot coals.
The English pilgrims brought some pumpkin recipes with them on the Mayflower, and although their cooking technique created a dish sweeter than the native recipe, it is still not the pumpkin pie we look forward to after a Thanksgiving feast. The pilgrims’ recipe was a makeshift pumpkin pudding—the pumpkin was hollowed and filled with milk, honey and spices before baking in hot ashes.
Recipes that resemble pumpkin pie as we know it didn’t develop until the 1650s in France. Famed 17th century chef Francois Pierre la Varenne developed a recipe for a “pompion” torte, complete with a pastry crust. English recipes decades later followed la Varenne’s example, but also included a variety of dried fruits, currants and nuts in the pumpkin filling. Nearly 150 years after the first pumpkin pie recipe was developed in France a dessert dish strikingly similar to modern pumpkin pie was created in 1796 in the United States.
Here’s a recipe from the inimitable poet and filmmaker, Christina Conrad (check her out at http://www.conradxposure.com
CONRAD’S OL’ TIME PUMPKIN PIE
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: Makes 8 Servings
- 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 unbaked pastry shell (9-inch)
- whipped cream or whipped topping, for garnish