I’ve been doing a lot of reading about historic food preparation in the US … you know, colonial and pioneer days. I love books that explain cooking methods used by early settlers and talk about all the foods they had at their disposal.
The First Pumpkin Pie
When we first learn about Thanksgiving, we learn how the settlers and Indians came together to celebrate the harvest. We learn how the Indians taught the settlers how to cook using foods native to the land. We see photos of Pilgrims in black clothes and funny hats with buckles and Indians in native dress sharing a turkey and pumpkin pie. It’s all very familiar … except they had venison and pie crust didn’t exactly exist!
The first pumpkin pie wasn’t exactly a pie … it was a pumpkin filled with custard. So, of course, I set out over the weekend to recreate this sweet treat. I unearthed my 1904 World’s Fair souvenir cookbook (my great grandpa was 19 when he went to the St. Louis World’s fair!) and found a pumpkin custard recipe. I reworked it to fit my needs.
That pretty pumpkin above is the one I used. It’s small and perfect for baking. Big pumpkins aren’t as tender or yummy.
I cut his “hat” off and set it aside for later.
Of course, if you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you know what the inside looks like, but here ya go … just in case.
I baked mine, seeds and all, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Place the pumpkin in a baking dish and pour about an inch of water into the dish. This gives you a head start on cooking and makes removing the seeds a little easier.
Remove the seeds and save for roasting … or toss them out in the front yard for the birds like I did. They were gone by morning!
For the custard:
1 pint cream or half & half
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients … don’t freak out when the spices begin giving you trouble. They’ll rise to the top in baking. It’s okay, really.
Pour the mixture into the pumpkin and place back into the pan, adding more water if needed. This took about 2 hours of baking time, but I started checking on it at the hour mark. You don’t want to overcook custard. Bad.
This pumpkin only held about half the mixture, so I poured the rest in ramekins and baked in a water bath with the pumpkin. These only took an hour.
The check if the custard has set, insert a toothpick into the center of the custard. If it comes out clean, the custard is done.
I set my pumpkin on a wooden cutting board to cook off. Don’t even think about cutting into it yet. You’ll want to cool this overnight.
Then … this is what it looks like. Remember when I said all the spices will rise to the top … you can see that here, they formed a dark speckled layer.
The inside looks like this. Completely sinful.
The spices actually form a bit of a crunchy top. Make sure you can a bite of pumpkin, custard and spice all at once.
Totally worth the wait – even if it did take forever to bake!
This didn’t make it to a serving plate. Sorry. But, I would serve it just like you see it here … maybe with a drizzle of honey over top. Hmmm. Now, I need to bake another one!
Happy early Thanksgiving!