Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Pie... A Staple Of Americana

Ever since I was a kid I can always remember enjoying a pumpkin pie during the fall season. Maybe even getting a hot cup of apple cider to go along with it. The idea of cooking pumpkins, mixing in sugar, spices, and cream all wrapped into a pastry has its origins as far back as the Middle Ages. Recipe books found from that time period show them creating these types of pies. However the pumpkin's roots are based in North America. Therefore it begs the question what were they using in the Middle Ages if they had not even discovered the New World at that point. In reality they were using gourds and squashes which are in the same family as the pumpkin but with a much different taste. Also known as winter squash, the pumpkin, once discovered, was quickly used by the European world and adapted into their recipes where originally they would have used those gourds or squashes. The reason for the change was that pumpkin simply tasted better. The earliest forms of the pie recipe which incorporate pumpkin are dated around 1653 from France. The word pumpkin itself is thought to have derived from the French word pompion which comes from the Latin word pepon which means melon. Being the fact that the first known recipe comes from France adds to the belief that the origin of the name comes from there.

With pumpkin itself having its original roots in North America it is no wonder that this delectable vegetable has become a staple of the American diet, especially in the fall due to its typical harvest time. Its also no surprise that the American Indian use of pumpkin was widespread.

"Among vegetables, the Northeastern Indians made particularly lavish use of squash, even more than other American Indians, and especially of pumpkin. Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire (in the case of squash, the acorn and butternut varieties were preferred) and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey; and both were also made into soup." --- Root & Rochemont, Eating in American: A History (1976), 41.

Learning from the Indians, the American colonists used the pumpkin as much as possible for the fall season. Even our founding fathers enjoyed the great pumpkin pie based from this recipe by Abagail Adams, wife to John Adams our 2nd President of the United States. I hope you all have the opportunity at some point this fall season to enjoy this delicious dessert with friends and family if you have not already.

--- Abagail Adams Pumpkin Pie Recipe ---
* 1 1/2 cups pumpkin
* 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated
* 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup dark rum, or brandy
* 3 eggs, lightly beaten
* Pecans
* Whipped cream
* 10-inch pie shell, unbaked
Mix all ingredients together and our into the prepared pastry shell. Bake at 425 degrees F. For 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. And bake for 40 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Garnish with pecans and whipped cream flavoured with rum or brandy. ---

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