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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

"Pompkin" Pudding (Pie), by Amelia Simmons, as made by Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald

Amelia Simmons, author of the first published recipe for American pumpkin pie, made two versions, including this two-crust beauty!


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! Read More 

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Not Your Mother's Pumpkin Pie: "To Make a Pumpion Pye," from The Complete Cook (1658)

Pumpkin Pie Fit for a Queen

Now that we're smack dab in the middle of the fall, New England's best time of year (as we noted in one of our summer posts), it's time to talk about one of the seasonal pies for which New England is best known—pumpkin pie. But the pumpkin pie we have in mind isn't your mother's pumpkin pie. Far from it. That pie—a pumpkin custard, gently spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of ginger and allspice, and baked in a crust—didn’t come into existence until the late eighteenth century. A century and a half before that, the early settlers of New England weren't all that keen on pumpkins, or the pies that could be made from them. According to the region's first historian, writing in the 1650s, people ate "Pumpkin Pies" only because they had to, because pumpkins (like corn, another unfamiliar food) grew like weeds in the strange new world in which they found themselves. They came up with ways to cook pumpkins (and corn) so that they could survive, not so that they could enjoy what they were eating.

But their compatriots in England didn't feel the same way. To them, sitting pretty and comfortable back home, pumpkins were intriguing in their novelty, not displeasing.  Read More 

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