By Fran Lane

When was the first pumpkin pie made? Pumpkins are native to the new world and are related to squashes, cucumbers, and cantaloupes…

Early references go back many centuries, and the name pumpkin originated with the Greek word for “large melon,” or “pepon,” meaning “cooked by the sun.” The French nasalized “pepon” and it became “pompon.” Then the English changed “pompon” to “pumpion,” which can be found in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. New World colonists changed “pumpion” into “pumpkin.”

Native Americans used pumpkins for food long before any European settlers arrived in the New World by roasting long strips of pumpkin on an open fire and also boiling them. When the white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and they made pumpkins part of their diet.

The pumpkin pie was first made when the early American settlers of Plymouth Plantation cut off the head of the pumpkin, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices, and honey and baked the pumpkin in hot ashes. They were nothing like the modern day pumpkin pie. The settlers did not have ovens at that stage.

While we do not know when the first pumpkin pie as we know it was made, there is a recipe in the 1796 American cookbook, American Cookery, by an American Orphan by Amelia Simmons. It was the first American cookbook written and published in America. Her pumpkin puddings were baked in a crust and similar to today’s pumpkin pies. Here’s one of her recipes: Pompkin Pudding No. 1. One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

So enjoy that Thanksgiving pie this holiday and the history it brings to the table.


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