We devote an entire section of a chapter on pies in Northern Hospitality to the pumpkin pie. Why so many pumpkin pie recipes? Because it turns out that the pumpkin pie as we know it is only one of many versions early New Englanders baked. Before there was the custardized pumpkin pie that Americans came to call their own, there was a somewhat odd pumpkin pie made in Britain and throughout the British colonies. Yup, folks liked it. It called for frying pumpkin strips in an herb-and-spice-laden pancake batter, known by its medieval name of froiz, then cutting up the pancakey pumpkin strips and layering them in the bottom of the pie with apple slices, currants, and lots of butter. Then, after the two-crust pie was baked . . . well, we'll leave the addition of the wine caudle to the warm pie for you to read about in Northern Hospitality (p, 301), or in a post about it elsewhere on this blog!
On to our favorite early American pumpkin pie, now sadly forgotten by most. When Americans think of pumpkin pie, they envision only Amelia Simmons's single-crust custard pumpkin pie, the one we find on our Thanksgiving tables today. But the two-crust pie given below, made with sugar rather than molasses, and with a rich but delicate puff pastry crust, is just as American and lots of fun to make and serve to guests.
The recipe for two-crust pumpkin pie originally appeared in the pudding section of Amelia Simmons's American Cookery (Hartford, 1796), the first American cookbook, and is reproduced in Northern Hospitality, p. 301. By the way, we've written an entire book on Amelia Simmons, her mysterious life and her amazing cookbook. Our book is United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017) and is available on the publisher's website, from indie bookstores, and on Amazon. Just sayin' . . .
MAKES ONE PIE
Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
1 small pumpkin, or 1 15-ounce can stewed pumpkin
1 pint heavy cream
4 medium eggs, beaten 1⁄2 teaspoon ground mace
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 9-inch pie crusts, store bought or from the "Puff Pastry" recipe found on this blog
Fit one of the pie crusts into a pie pan and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Line the pie crust with parchment paper or tin foil, and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the sides of the crust are just beginning to brown and the bottom is dry. Remove from the oven, prick the bottom with a fork, and cool on a wire rack.
If using fresh pumpkin, reduce the oven heat to 350° F. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Pour water in a roasting pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Put the pumpkin halves in the pan, skin side up, and roast for 50 minutes or until the inside of the pumpkin is quite soft. Remove from the oven and scoop out the softened pumpkin into a mixing bowl. Mash with a large wooden spoon or potato masher.
Pour the eggs and cream into the bowl of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl and whisk or beat until they are thoroughly blended.
Place 11⁄2 cups of the cooked fresh pumpkin, or the same amount of the canned pumpkin, in another mixing bowl. Mix in the spices and sugar. Add this mixture to the egg-cream mixture and stir until thoroughly blended. Ladle the resulting custard into the par-baked bottom crust.
Spread the top crust on a pastry board. With a dough spur or serrated knife, decorate it in a checkerboard pattern. Drape it over the pie dish containing the bottom crust and the filling. Fold the edge over the edge of the bottom crust and crimp together gently it with a fork.
Bake the pie at 350° F for 1 hour. Reduce the oven heat to 325° F and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until the top crust is nicely browned and the filling feels solid inside. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.