The History of Pumpkin Pie

November 26, 2019

Fran Lane

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Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving favorite! Pumpkins, which are native to North America and are plentiful this time of the year, were a staple food for Native Americans and for early American settlers as well. But when were the first pumpkin pies created?

By the 1670s, recipes for “pumpion pie” began to appear in English cookbooks. The pumpkin pie recipes started to sound more familiar, including spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Often the recipes added apples, raisins or currants to the filling. One of the first American pumpkin recipes was included in John Josselyn’s New-England’s Rarities Discovered, published in the early 1670’s. The recipe was for a side dish made from diced ripe pumpkin that had been cooked down in a pot over the course of a day. Once the pumpkin was cooked butter and spices were added, much like the recipes for mashed squash or sweet potatoes we see today. During the 17th century, women challenged themselves in the kitchen by developing unique and tasty new ways to serve pumpkin. Today, the most popular way to prepare pumpkins is undoubtedly pumpkin pie. This trend first began during the 1800’s when it became stylish to serve sweetened pumpkin dishes during the holiday meal. The earliest sweet pumpkin recipes were made from pumpkin shells that had been scooped out and filled with a ginger-spiced milk, then roasted by the fire.

It was not until 1796 that a truly American cookbook called American Cookery, by an American Orphan by Amelia Simmons, was published. It was the first American cookbook written and published here, and the first with recipes for foods native to America. Simmons’ pumpkin puddings were baked in a crust and similar to present-day pumpkin pies.

Today Thanksgiving, turkey, and pumpkin pie go hand in hand. Happy Thanksgiving!