From The Garden To The Kitchen - Pompions
Looking at the remaining pumpkins out on the vine this morning has me marveling at the knowledge that the cheapest and smallest pumpkins to be found at our local grocery stores begin at $7.99 and the largest are priced at $100. Two weeks from now there will be none available, unless you buy pureed in-the-can pumpkin or a pre-made pie, pumpkins will not be served on your table if your shopping is limited to the local stores.
That wasn’t always the case, for pumpkins or “pompions” (as the Pilgrims actually called them) were a favorite in and out of the garden.
One of my favorite historical stories about the pumpkin stems from a true event that took place in the early 1800s.
There was a Major Jonathan Grout living in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He was engaged to a local widow and threw a couple of parties to celebrate and announce the intended union.
At the first party, only a select number of the more well-to-do families were invited. An equal number of poorer neighbors and friends were not on the guest list, causing considerable unpleasant comments among the disgruntled.
There went along the lines of accusations that Major Grout was acting “high-toned.” When the Major heard this, he decided to give a second party.
This time, he sent his best four horse team and a huge wagon to pick up his guests and had them delivered to his house. then, individually he presented his bride-to-be to the town’s poor where she received them graciously.
It was well-known that the Major was passionate about pompion pies. Among the guests there were three other widows envious of his engagement, and wondering why they weren’t the lucky lady. One of them tried to get him to choose who made the best pumpkin pie in the community, certain he would choose hers over his fiancee’s pie.
The besieged bachelor told them, “Wait ‘til Thanksgivin’ and I’ll show you who makes the best pie.”
True to his word, the Major did show them. On Thanksgiving day he sent each widow a pumpkin and a pint of New Orleans molasses to make “herself” a genuine old-fashioned “pompion pie.”
What most of us today don’t realize about early pumpkin pie recipes is that early pumpkin pie filling was far removed from the sweet dessert we know today.
Early pumpkin pie fillings were stewed for hours in iron kettles over wood fires. Then, the pumpkin had to be pressed through a colander into good rich milk that had been freshly gotten from the family dairy cow, and sweetened with ginger, cinnamon, cashes of salt and molasses. They used no eggs for those pies, as eggs were scarce in the winter time.
Another little know fact, is that in Colonial times, pumpkins were seldom served as pie filling. Pumpkin was more likely to be served stewed or baked simply with a little butter, spices, and vinegar. It was considered an important meal, usually reserved for growing children, and always served with milk.
From a translated hand-written family Cajun recipe, here is my Great Tante Julienne’s:
Take a very small ripe pumpkin, slice off the stem to form a cover and handle (lid). Scoop out seeds and stringy parts, leaving only the solid meat. Fill it with milk, replace lid. Bake for six or seven hours. Refilled with cream and eat in the shell.
If You’d Like To Know More About Growing Pumpkins: