The First Pumpkin Pies

…weren’t pies at all. They were whole cooked pumpkins which were roasted in fire pits, all covered with ashes. It was a technique that the Pilgrims almost certainly picked up from the locals, who ate pumpkin all sorts of ways: raw (as the name makes clear – see below) but also roasted in strips, mashed, dried you name it.

The Pilgrims put a spin on the whole roasted squash concept by cutting off the top, scooping out the seeds and pouring a mixture of milk (or cream), honey and spices into the cavity. Then the whole mess was roasted and the contents stirred together before being dished up in bowls.

Why do this instead of making a proper pie (which the colonists certainly knew how to do)? Because there was no flour for crust, for one thing. Any bread or pastry flour the Pilgrims needed had to be shipped from the Old World. It would be many years before the advent of domestic wheat crops, and decades before the Colonies had any serious milling technology. Heck, even bread ovens were years off for the colonists in 1621 (the Thanksgiving at which the first “pumpkin pie” was served). How those poor people managed without at least the occasional brioche à tête I’ll never know. But that was how life was back then: tough.

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7 Responses to The First Pumpkin Pies

  1. Ann P. says:

    That pumpkin milk-nogg mixture does not sound so good to me. Glad we have actual pumpkin pies nowadays! :)

  2. Eva says:

    It seems to me that last fall (2010) it was all the rage to stuff a pumpkin full of goodness and roast it. Then scoop and serve straight from the pumpkin. How history does repeat itself! Did the Pilgrims also add meats and other veggies to the mix at some point?

  3. Bronwyn says:

    Pumpkin scooped, stuffed, and baked is still delicious. I stuff them with sage and onion stuffing though, not sweet stuff. Good vegetarian option when there’s a roast.

  4. Nil Zed says:

    In the 1960′s, I remember my mom making a soup that was served in a baked pumpkin shell. I have no recollection of what was in the soup, just the memory of her serving from the pumpkin.

    • joepastry says:

      My mother did that for a luncheon group once when I was a kid…only it was a cold pumpkin soup as I recall. I wasn’t a fan.

      - J

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