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What Are the Origins of Pumpkin Pie?
Pumpkin pies only became the grand finale of Thanksgiving dinner in the early nineteenth century, but people were spicing and stewing pumpkins into desserts long before that.
In the mid-1600s, recipes for pies filled with strained, cooked pumpkin appeared in both French and English cookbooks, but in early New England, where crusts were less frequent, some recipes simply instructed cooks to fill a hollowed-out pumpkin with sweetened milk, and cook it over a fire.
Most of the pumpkin pie’s history in the United States centers around the dessert’s pivotal role in what was seen as a predominantly “Northern” holiday—it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the tradition became more widespread. By 1929, canned pumpkin arrived, thanks to a Chicago meat-canning company, making the pie even easier to put together.
Is Fresh Pumpkin or Canned Pumpkin Better for Pumpkin Pie?
The pumpkin filling is the star of the show here. No one wants a stringy custard, which is why, while fresh is almost always a better bet for taste, canned pumpkin will get you closer to the smooth texture you want in a classic pumpkin pie.
You can absolutely use fresh pumpkin puree, but you may need to blitz it a few extra times to get the velvety mouthfeel that’s crucial to a good custard filling.
Perfect Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Makes1 9-inch pie
- 1 disc premade or homemade pie crust
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whipped cream (for serving)
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out refrigerated pie dough and fit to a 9-inch pie pan. Line the dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10–15 minutes, until crust begins to take on a little golden brown color. Remove from oven, remove weights, and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 375 F.
- To make the pie filling, combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice spices, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl or food processor. Blend until well incorporated.
- Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat, and cook for 3–4 minutes, warming pumpkin mixture and stirring continuously. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and cream. Slowly add to the spiced pumpkin and gently whisk until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour the custard into the pie crust, stopping just before it meets the top.
- Bake pie until custard is just set—it should still jiggle and be bouncy to the touch—about 45–50 minutes.
- Let the pie cool all the way to room temperature before slicing and serving with whipped cream and/or ice cream. If making ahead, cover tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve!
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