Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Color Collaborative: December: Spice


Pumpkin pie is considered by many to be a quintessential holiday-season dessert. It came as a surprise to me, then, to learn that plenty of people have never eaten it. I suppose it's my own cultural bias; I'm an American, and pumpkin pie is a major component of our Thanksgiving feasts. And, as I've mentioned, I was born on Thanksgiving Day, so maybe the holiday meal stands out for me more than it does for most people. I often make pumpkin pie for Christmas dessert too; it's perfect for the festive season and, frankly, it's very easy.

When I realized that pumpkin pie is not universally known, I began to read about its history*and I learned some surprising things. I had always believed that pumpkin pie, as we know it today, was served at the first "thanksgiving feast," held in 1621 by Pilgrims and Native Americans in Plimoth Plantation, the first permanent English settlement in North America. At least, that's what we learned in school. But the pumpkin "pie" served then was more likely to have been plain, stewed pumpkin flesh, or hollowed-out pumpkin shells filled with milk, honey and spices and then baked. The latter sounds rather tasty, but it's not exactly "pie" as we know it - there was no pastry crust! The basics were there, though: cooked squash, milk, flavorings. The first recipe including pastry appeared in France in 1651; by the 1670's, there were many English recipes for pumpkin pie with pastry. These recipes called for many eggs, other fruits, nuts. But another essential quality had emerged: pumpkin was now part of a custard filling, no longer roasted or baked alone. In 1796, the first American cookbook was published; its "pompion pudding" recipes, utilizing "pastes," quite closely resemble the pie recipes of today.


Pumpkin pie recipes usually call for cinnamon, ginger and cloves (and sometimes nutmeg), giving the pie earthy, zesty flavor and a warm color. Spices would appear to be one of the earliest, and most important, features of a pumpkin pie - in any incarnation. Most recipes seem to have included some type of flavorings, and no wonder - cooked pumpkin is rather bland all by itself. Pumpkin is plentiful in the fall, especially in New England where that first Thanksgiving took place; it makes sense that people found ways to use it. Have you ever tried to cook pumpkin from scratch? I have, and it was kind of a hassle. I'm glad that canned pumpkin is readily available where I live. I don't buy the canned "pumpkin pie mix," though; I prefer to use plain pumpkin and add my own spices. It's fresher-tasting and I can adjust quantities as necessary.


When you open a can of plain, cooked pumpkin, it doesn't look much like pumpkin-pie filling, does it? The color is garish, sort of a bright, streaky orange tone. It doesn't have the warmth of pie, rich with spices, egg and milk.




After stirring in the eggs, milk and spices, the color warms and deepens, and the pumpkin mixture begins to look more like our beloved pie.


As the pie bakes, it fills the house with the rich, brown scent of roasting pumpkin and spices. They wouldn't make all those candles if it wasn't amazing. The color of the filling deepens further during the baking, especially at the edges of the crust where it seeps into the crevices, hardened and sticky like caramel. The spices have darkened in the baking too; flecks of cinnamon and clove scattered on the custard's surface stand out now. The pie looks spicy. The flavor is warm and quite sweet, but there's a bite at the back of the throat; you notice it. I eat it with whipped cream sometimes, but usually I eat it plain. Pumpkin pie is a tradition; you could make it any time of year, but who does? It's a cold-weather food. We make it when the wind blows across the roof and the kitchen is the toastiest room in the house, when we gather with loved ones and feast.

Pumpkin Pie (from Libby's Pumpkin)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 unbaked deep-dish pie shell (fresh, frozen or refrigerated)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.

Beat eggs in a large bowl and whisk pumpkin into them. Stir in spice mixture. Gradually whisk in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake 40 to 50 minutes more. Pie is done when a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.

(I always place my pie dish on a foil-covered baking pan to catch drips as the pie bakes. I also use an aluminum pie shield (I have one like this) after the initial 15 minutes of baking to keep the crust from burning).


If you have any pie filling left after filling the crust, you can pour it into buttered ramekins, baking alongside the pie for about 45 minutes. I know two children who really enjoy this.

*A fascinating timeline of pumpkin pie history can be found here, if you'd like to read more.

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 Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa 
Sandra at Cherry Heart 
 
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

32 comments:

  1. I've never tried pumpkin pie but it does look delicious so I will have to give it a go. It's only recently that I learned it's made from squash rather than the pumpkins I associate with Halloween.

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  2. Hi Jennifer !
    Thank you for the recipe ! I am one of those who have never eaten pumpkin pie... And really wants to try it..
    The history of the pie is so interesting - to read that there are even french roots ? Sooo strange to hear, nothing of those roots is nowadays to be found in France... (I spend a lot of time there, so have a relatively good view of what is sold/cooked there..) maybe in regions where I don't come ?
    And to hear a out canned pumpkin ! Never ever seen it here !
    So interesting, food differences between countries - let alone continents !
    Whenever and wherever I'm on holiday, you know what the first thing is what I visit ? Supermarkets. Grocery stores. Not a museum. Sounds quite stupid, I know ;-). But the history of a country, you can read about it, you learn in school. But how people live, eat, that is something you only can experience in stores :-) !
    So now I'll have to try your recipe... Will have to replace the tinned pumpkin with fresh one. Hope it will work ;-) !

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  3. I've never tried pumpkin pie either. I'm not even sure that we can get tinned pumpkin over here. Yours does look good! :o)

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  4. I'm one of those people who's never tried pumpkin pie. You make it sound very appealing, and I have some squashes in the garage that would be perfect for it, so I might give it a go soon. Thanks for sharing the recipe. The smell of spices are perfect for the Christmas home aren't they. CJ xx

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  5. I have had pumpkin pie once or twice in Canada and the US, and enjoyed it, but have never made one. Pumpkin is one of my favourite flavours, but in Australia we tend to use it as a hot vegetable with meats, oven roasted or steamed, and sometimes in salads or savory tarts. Pumpkin scones are an Australian favourite, and pumpkin loaves or cakes are also made these days. Tinned pumpkin is not readily available, and usually only in specialty stores. We cut it and cook it ourselves! A great post Jennifer, with lots of historical information. Thank you for the recipe, too.

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  6. one of our thanksgiving staples.....and hubby's favorite pie! we don't usually do it for christmas, though the smell of a pumpkin pie baking always means winter and nesting and cozy---so i don't know why we don't!!!!!

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  7. Pumpkin pie does make the house smell wonderful!

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  8. I don't think I've ever eaten pumpkin pie but I'm sure I'd like it. It seems like it's the US version of our Christmas Pudding, which we always, always, have on Christmas Day. It's like a rich, steamed, fruit cake, dark and boozy, full of fruit and spices. I adore it but know a lot of people who don't much like it, like John. Canned pumpkin is really hard to get hold of here. I once bought some for pumpkin cupcakes and found some in an up market little deli, and it was expensive. I always love learning about your holiday traditions, Jennifer. x

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  9. I didn't realize until recently that Brits don't really make pumpkin pie. A friend of mine was staying with a family in London during Canadian Thanksgiving last year and offered to make a pumpkin pie so they could try out one of our traditional desserts. The man refused to even try it, and the ones who were brave enough kind of wrinkled their noses and took tiny little bites. So there's a bit of trivia to add to your pumpkin knowledge! :-)

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  10. I have never eaten pumpkin pie, I am slightly worried I might not like the texture. Silly, I know. I also didn't know that pumpkin is available canned, how fantastic, not having to cut a big unwieldy beast of a pumpkin. Thanks for sharing this interesting pumpkin pie post Jennifer, I love to learn about the history of foods we like. x

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  11. What an interesting post! Thank you for all the history of my very favorite pie. I love pumpkin pie and make mine using the same recipe you shared. Sometimes I use whipped topping, sometimes not. We sound a lot alike. :-)
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  12. Guess who briefly broke off from reading your post to edit her online shopping trolley to include a tin of pumpkin ... your pie just looks soooooo good!

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  13. I don't think I've tried pumpkin pie before but I think I'd like it. It sounds like a great combination of sweet and spicy. My husband cooks pumpkin soup from scratch and he uses it for fresh pasta too. Back home we add it to meat and fish stews. It's always been one of my favourite vegetables. x

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  14. We love pumpkin pie! Yours turned out perfect and pretty. A lot of times I make it without a crust at all and it's good that way too. Enjoy!

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  15. I have never eaten pumpkin pie but t looks and sounds delicious. :) xx

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  16. I love the idea of using the extra pie filling in little dishes! What a treat! And how gorgeous does your pie look friend!!! I hope that you have a very Merry weekend!! Nicole xoxo

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  17. I have never eaten pumpkin pie either ... Add to the list maybe !!!

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  18. Sadly pumpkin pie isn't for me because I am not keen on the texture, but I love the spices and think they are wonderful with other things - such as a spicy apple pie, I love that! The smell is wonderful though isn't it, nothing else quite like it! Happy Christmas! xx

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  19. I've never had pumpkin pie but yours looks delicious Jennifer. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Maybe I will try it if I can find a can of pumpkin. Loved this post. Bee xx

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  20. I love pumpkin pie - one of my faves! I never make it myself as I'm one of those "pie snobs" who has to have a homemade crust and I'm terrible at making one. My mom has always been the expert pie maker in our family, so I just enjoy her pies at family gatherings. I don't need all those extra calories and sugar anyway! But back to pumpkin...I enjoy just about pumpkin anything. I even stir pumpkin into plain Greek yogurt or put in smoothies. My oldest cat loves pumpkin, too - and it's so healthy for him. So when I open a can, he always gets a little bit on a spoon. :-)

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  21. I enjoyed your pumpkin pie post.. it's a favorite of mine and I think my mom used that same recipe only she added more spices. I am scared of making pie crust.. but my mom was a master at it. When I made that apple pie last year I made a recipe for 2 crusts but only got one out of it and had to make a 2nd batch for the top. It was hilarious and I was a sweaty stressed out mess when done. lol!
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

    ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉
    *M*E*R*R*Y* *C*H*R*I*S*T*M*A*S*!*
    ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉

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  22. I grow pumpkins every year and usually get a good crop with enough to store through the winter, but sadly my pumpkins didn't come to anything this year. I haven't tried making pumpkin pie, but have made soup and loaves which are delicious. ....xx

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  23. Jennifer, I not only appreciated your post but have been enjoying the comments as well! I have taken pumpkin pie for granted, but no more after reading this post! This year I have been using Libby canned pumpkin primarily to make pumpkin bread with no oil or egg and with gluten free Bisquick, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, spices, and sliced almonds. It is very moist and heavy but I think it is yummy and will share the recipe if you know someone who might like it. We tried making an impossible pumpkin pie with Bisquick and fresh pumpkin too, but I put too much ginger in so the result was ... interesting :) Thanks for another neat post, Jennifer. I hope you and yours are well and have a happy holiday celebration xx

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  24. Your pumpkin pie looks so delicious, and I loved reading the history too. The first time I had pumpkin pie was at a neighbourhood potluck party when a neighbour who came from the US brought one.....and I loved it! But when I tried to make one myself it was not so good.....I will try your recipe, and buy some canned pumpkin too next time. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer!
    Helen xox

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  25. It was a joy to read your post about pumpkin pie and learn it's history. It's my son's favorite dessert. This year I substituted coconut milk (from a can) instead of the evaporated milk since I wanted it dairy free. It gave a wonderful taste and didn't effect the consistency of the pie at all. Have a blessed Christmas holiday :)

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  26. Pumpkin pie is delicious, you made me crave it haha! Such stunning pictures as always!

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  27. I've never tried pumpkin pie. I suspect it's one of those things best eaten in it's country of origin, and I fully intend to visit the U.S. again one day...
    S x

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  28. Yum!! Now I want a slice of pumpkin pie which whipped cream!

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  29. Such an interesting post, Jennifer. I've never tasted pumpkin pie but the recipe you give sounds delicious, though I'm not sure the supermarkets over here sell tinned pumpkin.

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  30. You are right, I wouldn't of thought of pumpkin pie for Christmas at all, although I'm sure there are plenty of songs which mention it! I did have some for the first time ever, a few years ago and I have to say, it was delicious! Sorry I'm so late getting around to commenting this time but I hope you have a lovely Christmas!

    S x

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  31. I have eaten pumpkin pie a couple of times when celebrating Thanksgiving with an American friend. It is delicious but when I had a pumpkin in my veg bag earlier in the year it didn't occur to me to make pumpkin pie with it.........

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