The Pumpkin pie, while now a staple at the holiday table had very humble beginnings in the first European colonies of North America. Native Americans used pumpkins for food long before any European settlers arrived by drying strips of pumpkin and cutting them into mats. They also cut strips of pumpkin and roasted them on an open fire, storing them to get through the long winters. As centuries passed they learned many ways of enjoying the inner meat of the delicious and nutritious winter squash: baked, boiled, roasted, fried, parched, or dried. They also saved the pumpkin seeds for medicinal uses. The actual modern version of the pumpkin pie with a crust having stemmed from the first thanksgiving is a myth, as ovens to bake pies were as yet unavailable in the colonies during those times. It is believed that the settlers were not very impressed at first by the Indians’ pumpkins until they had to survive their first harsh winter and about half of the settlers died from scurvy and other sickness. The Native Americans brought pumpkins as gifts to these first settlers, and taught them the many uses they had for them. Originally the colonists simply cut off the tops the pumpkin, removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, spices, and honey before they roasted the them in a bed of hot ashes. Later the colonists used pumpkin meat as an ingredient for the crust of pies and not for the filling itself. It was this first introduction that eventually evolved into pumpkin pie about 50 years after the first Thanksgiving in America.
This is a good “classic” recipe to make the modern version of the pumpkin pie we know today. I’ve used canned pumpkin in this recipe and despite what you might think it is in fact the best way to make it. Interestingly, if you look at the pumpkin based winners of pie contests throughout North America you find that they almost all use canned pumpkin as the basis for their filling. It seems that getting the texture and flavor that we’ve all come to expect out of these pies is only possible with the canned product and while I’m sure you can locate a recipe that has you spending hours becoming intimately acquainted with your pumpkin, it’s not worth it in the end.
- 1 ¾ cups or a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree (not the pre-made filling)
- 1 ½ cups sweetened condensed milk
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon, ground
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ginger, ground
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
- ¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
- 1-9 inch deep dish pie shell
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F
- Combine all ingredients (with the exception of the crust) in a large bowl and mix at medium speed with an electric mixer for 2- 3 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into a prepared pie shell.
- Place in center of oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 350°F and bake an additional 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
- Remove and cool on a wire rack. Serve topped with whipped cream.