Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie

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
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out pie crust and fit it to a 9-inch pie pan.
  3. Stir the salt, sugar, and spices into the pumpkin puree.
  4. Stir in the eggs.
  5. Stir in the milk and cream.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing. Tastes best when served with lightly sweetened bourbon whipped cream.

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