Hundred-Year-Old Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Pumpkin PieFrankly I’m tired of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie recipe that calls for evaporated milk and a 1-pound can of pumpkin. Is it really necessary to use evaporated milk–or would regular milk work? And, of course,  I then made the short leap to:  How did they make pumpkin pies a hundred years ago?

I found an awesome  pumpkin pie recipe in the Lycoming Valley Cook Book. It was compiled by “the Ladies of the Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run Pa”. in 1907. The pie is similar enough to modern recipes that it won’t alarm your Thanksgiving guests. They’ll just think you used your usual recipe–but that it turned out better than it does in a typical year.

The resulting pie has a nice blend of spices that don’t overwhelm the pumpkin. The recipe calls for just two spices (cinnamon and ginger) rather than the three or four typically used in modern recipes.

It also uses more eggs than are generally used in recipes that call for evaporated milk. Since the milk used in the old recipe contains more liquid, additional eggs are needed to set the custard. This pie also requires more baking time than modern pumpkin pies, but the result is a rich and creamy custard filling.

Here’s my adaptation of the old recipe for modern cooks:

Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 5 - 6
  • Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 8-inch (small) pie shell

Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine all ingredients (except pie shell) in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (about 50-60 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Notes: This recipe filled the 8-inch pie shell to the very rim, and it was a little difficult to get it into the oven without spilling.  (Don’t overfill pie shell. If there is too much filling put the extra in a small casserole dish and cook separately.)

I used fresh pumpkin, but 1/2 of a can of pumpkin (14-16 oz. can) could be used. This recipe makes a small 8-inch pie. If I used canned pumpkin I’d probably double it, and instead make a large 10-inch pie.

To prepare the fresh pumpkin for the pie, I peeled part of a pumpkin and cut it into one-inch cubes. About 1 3/4 cups of cubed pumpkin will make a cup of cooked pumpkin. I put the cubed pumpkin into a saucepan and covered it with water. I turned the heat to high and brought to a boil; I then reduced the heat to medium and cooked until tender (about 20 minutes). I drained the pumpkin and used my mixer to blend it until smooth. I then proceeded with the pie recipe.

Fresh pumpkin can also be roasted. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove seeds and membranes, then put it in the oven at 400° F. Bake for about an hour or until the pumpkin is tender. Remove from oven. When the pumpkin has cooled, remove the pulp from the pumpkin shell. Use mixer, blender, or food processor to blend the chunks of pulp until smooth. Proceed with the pie recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Lycoming Valley (PA) Cook Book (1907)
Source: Source: Lycoming Valley Cook Book, compiled by the Ladies of Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run, PA (1907)

65 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Pumpkin Pie Recipe

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that you like this blog, and that you have a central Pennsylvania connection. I have a lot of fun doing it and it’s always nice to hear when someone enjoys it.

  1. This recipe is almost the same as mine.. I got mine out of an old cookbook years ago. I put in just a little clove in it yet. A great recipe! 😊

  2. I think every pumpkin pie’s improved by using real pumpkin, and I’m sure this one’s no exception. It looks like a nice, custardy pie, and I’m certainly going to give it a try. We’re getting pie pumpkins at the farmers’ market now, so it’s time.

    1. Pumpkin pies are good – and they’ve definitely been around for more than a hundred years. . . thousands of years may be a bit of an exaggeration. 🙂

  3. It’s funny isn’t it? You all seem to love pumpkin pie and have your favourite recipes. But it’s fairly hopeless trying to sell it to us Brits. We don’t seem to ‘get’ it (I don’t. I find it too sweet). I wonder why we’re so different in our appreciation of this dish.

    1. I don’t have an answer to your question. Some foods seem to be clearly associated with certain countries – and pumpkin pie is apparently one of them. 🙂

  4. In a nutshell, many modern American ingredients were not around when our ancestors lived, and cannot be found in Europe without going to an expensive import shop or the internet. I finally figured how to make a pumpkin pie with all natural ingredients. Because I love pumpkin pie, I loved this post.

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed this post. Thanks for the information. This explains some of the other comments that I got. I now better understand why pumpkin pie isn’t readily available in Europe.

    1. A hundred years ago, milk that had soured was sometimes used in recipes – so the recipe author was clarifying that “sweet” milk should be used instead of “sour.”

  5. Sounds delicious. Your photo is lovely.
    I’d like to give this a try sometime, but I have a couple of questions:
    What size of can of pumpkin did you use?
    How did you keep you crust from burning?

    1. I used fresh pumpkin, but 1/2 of a can of pumpkin (14-16 oz. can) could be used. This recipe makes a small 8-inch pie. If I used canned pumpkin I’d probably double it, and instead make a large 10-inch pie.

      To prepare the fresh pumpkin for the pie, I peeled part of a pumpkin and cut it into one-inch cubes. About 1 3/4 cups of cubed pumpkin will make a cup of cooked pumpkin. I put the cubed pumpkin into a saucepan and covered it with water. I turned the heat to high and brought to a boil; I then reduced the heat to medium and cooked until tender (about 20 minutes). I drained the pumpkin and used my mixer to blend it until smooth. I then proceeded with the pie recipe.

      Fresh pumpkin can also be roasted. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove seeds and membranes, then put it in the oven at 400° F. Bake for about an hour or until the pumpkin is tender. Remove from oven. When the pumpkin has cooled, remove the pulp from the pumpkin shell. Use mixer, blender, or food processor to blend the chunks of pulp until smooth. Proceed with the pie recipe.

      When I made this recipe, I reduced the heat from 425° F. to 350° F. after 15 minutes and didn’t have any problems with the crust burning.

      [Since other people have similar questions, I added most of this comment as a note to the recipe on 11/11/16]

      1. Thanks so very very much. I think an 8 inch pie is what I’ll try. I’ll use the canned pumpkin. I wish I had a fresh pumpkin to try the baking method, I bet that would really make the pie more flavorful.
        I’ve got a lot of proverbial irons-in-fire right now, but hopefully, I’ll get it made sometime soon. Thanks again I really appreciate your thoughts and helpful suggestions. You’re the best. 🙂

    1. I also enjoy the older recipes. I’m not sure that the ratio of pumpkin to sugar is much different in this recipe from many modern ones–but any case it’s tasty. 🙂

    1. You shouldn’t feel like a cheat for buying the crust. We all have certain foods that we find just aren’t practical to make from scratch for one reason or another. I currently make my pie crusts from scratch–but back when I lived in an apartment with a small kitchen I always bought prepared pie crusts. It was just too difficult to find enough counter space to roll out a crust.

  6. I’m more an apple pie girl than pumpkin but this pie looks like the very definition of what a pumpkin pie should be! I love those old church and community cookbooks, too!

    1. I’ve been thinking that it’s about time to check out some of the used bookstores. In the past, I’ve found some really nice old church and community cookbooks at them – and I always could use a few “new” ones. 🙂

  7. You cravenly skip over how to get that 1 cup of pumpkin. Your 100-year-old recipe obviously expects you to know whether to cook the pumpkin before rubbing it through a colander, but I don’t. I see you answered this problem in a comment above; recommend you edit your post to include the information about how to prepare the pumpkin.

    1. It would be so much fun to share a piece of pie with you, but since we’re on different continents I guess you’ll just have to enjoy it virtually (and there definitely are fewer calories that way). 🙂

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