One of the mainstays of the American Thanksgiving Day table is pumpkin pie. But when did pumpkin pie become associated with the holiday? Though pumpkin pie has changed through the years, pumpkin, which is native to North America, may have been part of the original Thanksgiving Day feast. Recipes for pumpkin pie date back to England (pumpkins having been brought to England from the new world before the Mayflower – confusing, right?).
However, some of these early “pumpkin pie” recipes varied widely, and some had no crust, or consisted of a custard or apples baked inside of a hollowed out pumpkin itself. As legend would have it, the town of Colchester, MA delayed Thanksgiving in 1705 due to a molasses shortage that ruined any plans for pumpkin pie. The first published pumpkin pie recipe in the US appears in Amelia Simmons’ extremely popular cookbook American Cookery (1796), and in fact contains 2 variations.
No. 1. One quart (pompkin) stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg, ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.
No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.
By the 1800s, pies were an ingrained part of most Thanksgiving traditions, at least in the north. Pumpkin pie as we know it today usually is made with canned pumpkin, which was only introduced by Libby in the mid-20th Century. And thanks to Libby, 80% of the canned pumpkin in the US comes from one town, Morton, IL. There are so many pumpkin pie recipes out there, I can’t even begin to recommend one, but chances are you’ll be sampling a piece of pumpkin pie history this Thanksgiving!
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