What’s round, heavy and always in the kitchen this time of year? (No, it’s not your mother-in-law.) Pumpkins!
Whether you prefer to boldly brandish your own scoop and harvest the flavorful meat yourself or buy it canned and ready to bake, there are a million great reasons to add this beneficial fruit to your Fall menu. And people have been doing just that for hundreds of years!
Pumpkins, which are a member of the Cucurbit or Gourd family, are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas and were a vital source of sustenance for both early settlers and Native Americans, helping them survive long, harsh winters.
They roasted pumpkin strips over campfires, brewed pumpkin beer, used the blossoms in stews, ground pumpkin into flour, and even wove dried pumpkin flesh into mats to use for trading! This incredibly beneficial food stored well and due to its wonderful versatility, helped protect them from starvation.
The importance of the Pumpkin was even documented in this early poem:
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."
And today, this beloved fruit is still widely harvested for its many uses and nutritional value. Pumpkins are low in both sodium and calories, but high in beta-carotene, protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins. Not to mention, they are the inspiration for thousands of scrumptious recipes!
Try your hand at one of these historical Pumpkin treats to pay homage to our forefathers and bring a delicious new indulgence to the table:
The Pilgrim Father's Original Pumpkin Pie - Norfolk Million Pie
This is a very old English pumpkin pie recipe from Norfolk in East Anglia. It would have been known as Norfolk million pie - million being the old English word for a melon, marrow, pumpkin or any kind of gourd or squash.
Please note, this is not the same as most of the modern North American pumpkin pie recipes, but is based on the original recipe from the 15th/16th century. As many of the Pilgrim Father's originated from East Anglia, this recipe undoubtedly crossed the Atlantic with them, and was probably served at their Thanksgiving dinner for the first harvest in the New World - pumpkins being in abundance there!
You can use marrow or squash in this pie if you wish, it works just as well as it would have in the 15th/16th Century! Please note, this recipe uses fresh pumpkin.
- Prep: 40 mins
- Cook: 40 mins
- Serves: 6-8
- Yield: 1.0 Pumpkin Pie
- 8 ounces shortcrust pastry
- 1 1/2 lbs pumpkin or 1 1/2 lbs marrow, peeled and fibrous center removed, cut into cubes
- 3 ounces brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 5 tablespoons milk
- 1 ounce currants or 1 ounce raisins
Place the pumpkin in a colander over a pan of boiling water and steam for about 20 minutes or until tender. Mash to a pulp and allow to cool.
Grease and line a 10 - 12" diameter round tin with the shortcrust pastry and reserve the trimmings for decoration.
Prick the base, line with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake at 375F, Gas Mark 5, 190C for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5 minutes.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together with the nutmeg, ginger and ground cinnamon.
Fold in the mashed pumpkin, currants or raisins and 4 tablespoons of milk and pour into the pastry case.
Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into strips with a pastry wheel.
Brush the strips and the pastry edges with the remaining milk and position strips in a criss-cross lattice pattern over the pie top.
Bake at 375F, Gas Mark 5, 190C for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until filling has set.
Cut into wedges and serve warm or cold with whipped cream.
Stewed Pompion (Pumpkin): An Ancient New England Standing Dish
This is a delicious recipe for pumpkin, known as "pompions" to English people in the 17th century (as were all squash.)
It is one of the earliest written recipes from New England, from a book written by John Josselyn, a traveler to New England in the 1600's. (John Josselyn, Two Voyages to New England.)
John Josselyn called this recipe a “standing dish” suggesting that this sort of pumpkin dish was eaten every day or even at every meal. He called it “ancient” because English housewives had cooked this recipe in New England for a long time.
- 4 cups of cooked (boiled, steamed or baked) squash, roughly mashed
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1 or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir and heat all the ingredients together.
2. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve hot.
Pueblo Pumpkin/Squash Piñon Nut Sweetbread
Rio Grande Pueblo peoples traditionally served a variant of this sweetbread to parties of nut-pickers in September when pinon nuts are being picked from the mountain slope trees. Families would camp for many weeks in traditional areas reserved for clans.
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 cup finely mashed or pureed pumpkin
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
- 2 eggs beaten foamy
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
In the recipe you can use either cooking-type pumpkin (these have necks and thick, meaty bodies, not like jack o' lantern pumpkins) or a sweet bright orange squash, like butternut or canned pumpkin.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, spices.
- Stir in pumpkin, eggs, butter.
- Stir pine nuts into thick batter.
- Scrape into a greased 6 x 9 loaf pan.
- Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in bread comes out clean.
What are some of your favorite Pumpkin recipes? Are they modern or have they been passed down for generations?
Tell us about them! And don’t forget to include pictures!