Pilgrim Seasonings

Plymouth Colony Foodways: Notes and Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen

Their former Pumpkin Pies

August 3rd, 2013 by KM Wall


Tourte of pumpkin.
Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.”
- Francois Pierre La Varenne. The French Cook [1653], Translated into English in 1653 by I.D.G., Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [East Sussex: Southover Press} 2001 (p. 199-200)

This will make a pie that’s amazing like a most of the Pumpkin Pies that will be on our Thanksgiving tables. It does  seem a little ironic that the earliest pumpkin pie recipe to show up in England is from a translation from a French cookbook. And the ones that show up in English cookbooks are very different then the pumpkin pies we now know and love.

Edward Johnson in The Wonderworking Providence of Sion’s Savior in New England of 1654 says, “…so that in this poor Wilderness hath not onely equalized England in food, but goes beyond it in some places for the great plenty of wine and sugar, which is ordinarily spent, apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies.” (p. 210, 1910 ed.)

Apple pie we still love; Pear pies we really don’t love enough; and as for Quince….when was the last time you had a really great Quince tart? Or even a meh one? But former Pumpkin Pies? Did New England give up Pumpkin Pie  – even when the fruit trees came in?


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3 Responses to “Their former Pumpkin Pies”

  1. carolina says:

    Question: what kind of pumpkin do you think was probably used in this receipt? And what modern type best approximates it? If there isn’t one, what modern type is best to use? Just wondering! Thanks

    • KM Wall says:

      The oldest known ‘variety’ is the Connecticut Field Pumpkin, BUT paintings show a huge variety. There are more modern hybrids, like the Waltham Butternut and many of the Japanese squashes that are no on the market. If you’re making this at home, use what you have and what you like.If it’s for a historic cooking, find a description of what was available there, then and seek out your best phenotype.
      Good eating either way.

    • KM Wall says:

      Also – Amy Goldman’s The Compleat Squash is not only beautiful, but a wonderful source for information and inspiration for all things squash and pumpkin.

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