One of America’s Favorites – Pumpkin Pie

October 7, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Pumpkin pie, with two slices removed

Pumpkin pie, with two slices removed

Pumpkin pie is a dessert pie with a spiced, pumpkin-based custard filling. The pumpkin is a symbol of harvest time, and pumpkin pie is often eaten during the fall and early winter. In the United States and Canada, it is usually prepared for Thanksgiving, and other occasions when pumpkin is in season.

The pie filling ranges in color from orange to brown, and is baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with cinnamon, powdered ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice is also commonly used and can replace the clove and nutmeg, as its flavor is similar to both combined. Cardamom and vanilla are also sometimes used as batter spices. The spice mixture is called pumpkin pie spice.

The pie is often made from canned pumpkin or packaged pumpkin pie filling (spices included), mainly from varieties of Cucurbita moschata.

Pies made from pumpkins use pie pumpkins which measure about six to eight inches in diameter. They are considerably smaller than jack o’lanterns. The first step for getting the edible part out of the pumpkin is to slice it in half and remove the seeds. The two halves are heated until soft, in an oven, over an open fire, on a stove top, or in a microwave oven. Sometimes the pumpkin halves are brined to soften the pulp instead of being cooked. At this point the pulp is scooped out and puréed.

A slice of home-made pumpkin pie

The pulp is mixed with eggs, evaporated and/or sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and a spice mixture called pumpkin pie spice, which includes nutmeg and other spices (e.g., ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, mace), then baked in a pie shell. Similar pies are made with butternut squash or sweet potato fillings.

The pumpkin is native to the continent of North America. The pumpkin was an early export to France; from there it was introduced to Tudor England, and the flesh of the “pompion” was quickly accepted as pie filler. During the seventeenth century, pumpkin pie recipes could be found in English cookbooks, such as Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1675). Pumpkin “pies” made by early American colonists were more likely to be a savory soup made and served in a pumpkin than a sweet custard in a crust.

It was not until the early nineteenth century that the recipes appeared in Canadian and American cookbooks or pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. The Pilgrims brought the pumpkin pie back to New England, while the English method of cooking the pumpkin took a different course. In the 19th century, the English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar and then baking it whole. In the United States after the Civil War, the pumpkin pie was resisted in southern states as a symbol of Yankee culture imposed on the south, where there was no tradition of eating pumpkin pie. Many southern cooks instead made sweet potato pie, or added bourbon and pecans to give a southern touch.

A can of pureed pumpkin, typically used as the main ingredient in the pie filling

Today, throughout much of the United States, it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. Additionally, many modern companies produce seasonal pumpkin pie-flavored products such as candy, cheesecake, coffee, ice cream, french toast, waffles and pancakes, and many breweries produce a seasonal pumpkin ale or beer; these are generally not flavored with pumpkins, but rather pumpkin pie spices. Commercially made pumpkin pie mix is made from Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata (Libbey Select uses the Select Dickinson Pumpkin variety of C. moschata for its canned pumpkins).

Pumpkin pies were briefly discouraged from Thanksgiving dinners in 1947 as part of a rationing campaign, mainly because of the eggs in the recipe.

The world’s largest pumpkin pie was made in New Bremen, Ohio, at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest. It was created on September 25, 2010. The pie consisted of 1,212 pounds of canned pumpkin, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 7 pounds of salt, 14.5 pounds of cinnamon, and 525 pounds of sugar. The final pie weighed 3,699 pounds and measured 20 feet in diameter.

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