Back when I was in graduate school I lived in Hamilton, Ontario. There was a 19th century historic home/museum in town called Dundurn Castle. Every year, the people who ran it held a baking contest, a 19th century baking contest, meaning, of course, that all entries had to be prepared from 19th century recipes.
I loved this contest. I submitted multiple entries every year. I won multiple prizes every year. I won ribbons for my fruitcake, a silver and gold cake, a jar of apricot peach jam, and pumpkin pie, among other things. Of them all, I loved my pumpkin pie the best.
It is the one recipe that I continue to make again and again, especially around the Thanksgiving season. The recipe is titled Mrs. O.’s pumpkin pie. I have no idea who Mrs. O. was, but she made a damn fine pie. It is a perfectly balanced pie with just the right ratio of pumpkin to custard, and a lovely blend of spices.
I got all of the recipes I used for this contest from a facsimile edition of a book I tracked down in the McMaster University library. It was an American cookbook from the 19th century. I have long since lost the photocopy I made of the title page, and I really wish I hadn’t, because I’d love to give credit to the author.
Of course measurements were not exactly standardized at that time, so making these recipes required a good deal of interpretation. Here is my version of the recipe, complete with standardized measures.
P.S. Those are cherry marshmallows in the background of the photo. They are a subject for another post on another day.
Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie
- 1 single layer pie crust, unbaked (see Oh Boy Strawberry Pie! for recipe and instructions)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. cream
- 2/3 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Roll out pie crust and fit it to a 9-inch pie pan.
- Stir the salt, sugar, and spices into the pumpkin puree.
- Stir in the eggs.
- Stir in the milk and cream.
- Pour custard into the prepared pie shell. (Depending on the exact size of your pan you may have some left over. If so pour it in a ramekin and bake it alongside the pie as a custard.)
- Bake until the custard is nearly set. Bump the pie gently and watch what happens to the custard. When only a 2-inch wide area in the middle wiggles, the pie is done. It should take 50 minutes to an hour.
- Let cool completely before slicing. Tastes best when served with lightly sweetened bourbon whipped cream.