Historic, Scratch Pumpkin Pie (Not As Hard As You Think!)

READY IN: 1hr 15mins
YIELD: 3-4 pies




  • The day before, wash your pumpkin, pierce it 3-4 times to vent steam, and set it into a pan large enough to hold it. (If the pumpkin is very large or if you want the seeds for planting slice the pumpkin in half and bake the halves cut-side-down in a shallow dish.
  • Bake it whole at 350 for 1-2 hours depending on size or until the flesh is very soft and the skin color has deepened.
  • When cool, separate the flesh from the skin and the seeds. If the flesh seems watery, drain it in a colander.
  • Mash the flesh (some breeds of pumpkin have stringy flesh that resists mashing. This will give the pies an unusual texture but does not affect the flavor).
  • Prepare your favorite pie crust recipe and line 4, 8-9" pans or 3, 10" deep-dish pans.
  • Mix the pumpkin, spices, vanilla, 2 cups of half and half, mollases, and 1/2 cup of sugar together thoroughly.
  • Taste to check the sweetness and the balance of flavors. Some pumpkin is sweeter, some not so sweet, some more richly-flavored, some fainter. Add additional sugar until the sweetness is right and add a pinch or two more of each spice if the flavor needs perking up.
  • Beat the eggs into the remaining half and half then combine well with pumpkin mix.
  • Ladle the mix into the pie shells, being sure to get an equal amount of pumpkin flesh and custard in each.
  • Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then at 350 for 40-60 minutes (or more for very large pans or a very full oven) -- until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire racks then refrigerate.
  • Serve topped with real whipped cream.
  • Note: Because of the molasses and the variability of individual pumpkins the pies are likely to be more brown than the vibrant, even electric orange of a store-bought pie.
  • Historical note -- While the modern pumpkin pie is mainly sweet custard with some pumpkin and lots of spices the pumpkin pie of our ancestors was mainly pumpkin, held together with custard, lightly sweetened (perhaps only with a little molasses), and just enough spices to enhance the pumpkin without dominating it. It was actually served more as a vegetable dish than as a dessert and might even be eaten as the main course at lunch or for a light supper.
  • This pie is a compromise between the two -- rich with pumpkin but not candy-sweet.