In the days of Colonial America, the most commonly served food at Thanksgiving was pumpkin. Pumpkin was made into bread, butter, sugar, sauce, and syrup. Pumpkin was even brewed into beer.
Pumpkin was so ubiquitous that colonists mockingly referred to Thanksgiving as St. Pompion’s Day. Pompion was the French word for pumpkin, which the English mispronounced as pompom and the colonists finally mangled into pumpkin.
The colonists made pumpkin pie, of course, but not pie as we know it. They often didn’t have wheat for crust, nor cane sugar, nor pie tins, nor even ovens to bake their pies.
Pioneer farmers in the wilderness of America needed a simple preparation for pie that could be cooked in an open fire. To make their pie, colonists hollowed out a pumpkin, stuffed it with apples, spices, and milk, and baked the stuffed pumpkin in the ashes of a fire. We call this colonial pumpkin pie.
You can bake a colonial pumpkin pie in your own kitchen. It may be the easiest and most original pie you serve at Thanksgiving.
To make this pie:
- Cut out the top of a medium-sized pumpkin and remove the seeds and flesh.
- Fill the pumpkin with sliced apples, brown sugar, pecans, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cream. Layer the ingredients as you fill the pumpkin to allow the filling to bake evenly.
- Replace the top and set the entire pumpkin into a 375 degree oven for about three hours, or until the flesh is fork tender and the filling is bubbling.
You can use a small pumpkin for your pie, which bakes quickly, or use any round winter squash, such as buttercup, acorn, or red turban.
You can also make a savory pumpkin pie, which is, I think, even better than the sweet version. For a savory pie, fill the pumpkin with bacon, gruyere, onion, garlic, thyme, cream, and toasted homemade bread. This dish is commonly served in the south of France as a rustic yet elegant main course for open air dinners.
A colonial pumpkin pie makes a stunning centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast–a delicious piece of American history on display at your holiday table.