Pumpkins are a New World food, but they were quickly adopted in the Old World whose citizens were familiar with other members of the Curcurbitaceae family such as melons and cucumbers. In anticipation of an increase in the flood of recipes for pumpkin pie appearing in the media in this week of Thanksgiving, I thought a glance at the English cousins of this traditional American dish might provide a nice counterpoint.
Firstly, from the marvellous Hertfordshire agriculturalist and writer William Ellis, from his Country Housewife’s Family Companion, (1750):-
We pare and cut the Pumkins in Slices, then lay the Slices in a glazed ea[r]then Pot with Salt between each Layer of them, all Night, for extracting out their watry Juice: Then chop them with the like Quantity or less of Apples, and with Sugar put them into a Crust and bake. The Pumkins save Apples, and by some are liked better than Apples alone.
And an interesting American insight into old-style English pumpkin/apple pie from Reports on the Herbaceous Plants and on the Quadrupeds of Massachusetts (1840):-
In England the pumpkin is cultivated to a considerable extent. “When the fruit is ripe, they cut a hole on one side, and having taken out the seeds, fill the void space with sliced apples, adding a little sugar and spice, and then, having baked the whole, eat it with butter, under the name of pumpkin pie.” Loudon. This English pie is very different from the pumpkin pie of New England, so necessary to Thanksgiving, that a Yankee, it is said, cannot be without it, and that in one town, the good people actually postponed the day of Thanksgiving until the needed molasses should arrive for its composition.
And a compare-and contrast from The Ladies' New Book of Cookery (Philadelphia, 1852), by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale:-
Pumpkin Pie (American).—Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin or squash ; but in taking out the seeds do not scrape the inside of the pumpkin ; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest; then stew the pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve or cullender. To a quart of milk, for a family pie, 3 eggs are sufficient. Stir in the stewed pumpkin with your milk and beaten-up eggs, till it is as thick as you can stir round rapidly and easily. If the pie is wanted richer make it thinner, and add sweet cream or another egg or two; but even 1 egg co a quart of milk makes " very decent pies." Sweeten with molasses or sugar; add 2 tea-spoonsful of salt, 2 tnble-spoonsful of sifted cinnamon, and 1 of powdered ginger; but allspice may be used, or any other spiec that may be preferred. The peel of a lemon grated in gives it a pleasant flavor. The more eggs, says an American authority, the better the pie. Some put 1 egg to a gill of milk. Bake about an hour in deep plates, or shallow dishes, without an upper crust, in a hot oven.
Pumpkin Pie (English).—Take out the seeds, and grate the pumpkin till you come to the outside skin. Sweeten the pulp; add a little ground allspice, lemon peel and lemon juice; in short, flavor it to the taste. Bake without an upper crust.