Tag Archives: pumpkin recipes

When Pumpkin was Pumpion


Heirloom, eating pumpkins may not all be orange. Photo by Jeremy Seitz form Flickr

It is October and the great pumpkin attack has begun. Not content with pumpkin pie– or here in the Southwest, pumpkin empanadas– the orange army pops up everywhere. Pumpkin breakfast cereal, pumpkin cider, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin sausages (!?!), pumpkin tortilla chips. If you eat it, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks and everywhere you turn will be injecting pumpkin into it.

My daughter-in-law, Rene, revels in all this.  I find it partly amusing and partly annoying.

But on second thought, the proliferation of pumpkin everything just emphasizes what our ancestor knew. Pumpkin is endlessly versatile.  In fact, thanks to pumpkin knowledge shared by the Native Americans with our earliest settlers, our great-great-grands lived through many a New England and Northwest Territory winter.

An ancestor of mine whose family were early settlers in the Northwest Territory wrote about his experiences as a boy, and the food they existed on. Along with game and root vegetables, “Great use was made of pumpkin.  We used to cut up and dry a great quantity of pumpkin.”

Pumpkin As a Side Dish

Here’s how they might have cooked pumpkin over a fire, and some facts about pumpkin as a survival food.  Also some useful tips for cooking pumpkin today.

Stuffed Pumpkin

pumpkin macaroni

Pumpkin stuffed with macaroni and cheese

Back in the mid 19th century, cooks liked to stuff things inside of other things–a tradition that goes back about as far as we can trace cooking, at least to the Romans.  But this recipe that bakes macaroni inside a pumpkin is a strictly modern and simply heavenly adaptation of that principle.

Pumpkn Cornbread

Pumpkin Cornbread

Robin Benzle’s Pumpkin Pecan Cornbread

Last year, I discovered a simple recipe for pumpkin corn bread that quickly became my favorite. In fact, it edges out the previous favorite, cranberry-pumpkin bread by a tiny margin. Although it is not a traditional recipe–it uses Jif Cornbread Mix for heaven’s sake–it gets its goodness from ingredients our ancestors in aprons would have used frequently–cornmeal, molasses and pumpkin. (Be sure to make the molasses butter to go with the cornbread!)

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

This recipe caught my eye in a magazine ad, and I clipped it and taped it to a cupboard door long ago.  It is moist and adaptable to your family’s taste. Adjust to your tolerance of spice and nuts.

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Serves 20
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 5 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
A rich bread that is a great addition to Thanksgiving menu, combining two traditional favorites--pumpkin and cranberry sauce.


  • 3 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or substitute 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 16-oz can pumpkin ((not pumpkin pie mix))
  • 1 16-oz can cranberry sauce (whole berry sauce)
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs


  • 3/4 cups pecans (chopped)


1. In large bowl, whisk together, flour, sugar, soda, spices, salt and baking powder.
2. In second bowl, stir together remaining ingredients until well mixed. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir well.
3. Pour batter into two greased loaf pans (9 1/4" x 5" x 2"). Bake at 350 degrees F for 65 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
4. Cool in pans 10 minutes then remove to cooling rack.
5. When cool, drizzle glaze over top if you wish. If freezing, freeze before glazing.
6. Optional Glaze: Mix 1 Cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate and 1/8 tsp allspice until smooth.


Cranberry pumpkin bread is moist and rich. I personally think it stands on its own, so I never add the orange glaze to the cranberry pumpkin read as was recommended in the magazine recipe I clipped long ago.

You can bake the cranberry pumpkin bread in a pyrex 9 x 13 flat pan rather than loaf pans, if you prefer.

Adjust the spices to your liking.

Freezes great, so I make it several weeks before Thanksgiving. One less thing to worry about on the day.

Pumpkin Recipes: Survival Food on the Ohio Frontier

Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

Poem written in 1630s America,  from History.org article on pumpkins .

When the settlers from New England first arrived in Marietta, in the Northwest Territory about 1790, Indian wars were raging.  They had no easy trade with the east, their livestock was constantly in danger, they had to clear dense Ohio woods before they could plant vegetables, and then take the chance of going out of their forts to tend to their gardens. Even hunting was risky, said Benjamin Franklin Stone in his memoir of the pioneers of Israel Stone’s family.

Ohio Forest

Ohio Forest. Photo by Ben Millett from Flickr

In his autobiography, B.F. Stone says

Principle items of food were Indian bread, pork, potatoes and other garden sauce, occasional venison, bear and raccoon, opossums, squirrels, wild turkeys.

The war prevented us hunting much in the woods.  No apples, peaches or other cultivated fruits until the trees had time to grow from seed.

Great use was made of pumpkin.  We used to cut up and dry a great quantity of pumpkin.  Corn in the milk was dried for winter and spring.  Pumpkins, melons and garden vines grew more luxuriously [than in the middle 19th century.]

In the late 18th century, when my Ohio ancestors were depending on pumpkin recipes to keep them alive, the Europeans still disdained pumpkin, recently introduced to them, as food for the poor.

Like so many frontier foods, housewives found many ways to keep their family from getting bored with pumpkin. Not an easy task since pumpkin recipes benefit from sweetening and if ever two flavors were meant to go together, it is pumpkin and cinnamon.  if they had any cinnamon, it would have been in short supply, and for sweetening, they probably had to depend on maple syrup or honey once they ran out of the small amount of sugar they brought along, as it would be a while before traders would be delivering molasses to the frontier settlements.


Heirloom, eating pumpkins may not all be orange. Photo by Jeremy Seitz form Flickr

I found a great article at History.org, the website of Historic Williamsburg, with a very complete history of the use of pumpkin in America, from American Indians to today. Here’s a 17th century view of one way  pumpkins were cooked.

“A visitor to New England in 1674 wrote:

The Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew’d enough, it will look like bak’d Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple.”

Today we tend to limit ourselves to pumpkin already stewed and canned and to a pumpkin recipe on the can’s label for pie. Or maybe we munch on salted pumpkin seeds, removed when the kids made jack-o-lanterns. Our more versatile ancestors were using pumpkin recipes for side dishes, or stuffed pumpkin with various fillings eaten as a main dish.

But we are not just being lazy when we choose pumpkin in a can.  Pumpkins in America have been for decades bred for making jack-o-lanterns–sturdiness taking precedence over taste. And the thinner walls suitable for carving mean you don’t get as much pumpkin meat.  So if you’re going to cook up some pumpkin from scratch, be sure that you find a store that sells eating pumpkins–perhaps labeled “heirloom” or you will definitely be disappointed.

What we call pumpkin pie, was known by them as pumpkin pudding. It just happened to be baked in a “paste”, which we call by the finished name–crust. The article from Williamsburg points out that the Amelia Simmons American cookbook in 1796 gave a recipe for pumpkin pudding that sounds almost identical to the pie filling you can find on the label of the canned pumpkin today. There are some things that you just can’t really improve on.


“…the Pilgrims seem to have been first to make pumpkin beer or ale. A later stanza of the poem quoted above provides evidence that they were versatile with their ingredients:

If Barley be wanting to make into Malt, We must be contented and think it no Fault, For we can make liquor to sweeten our Lips Of Pumpkins and Parsnips and Walnut-Tree Chips.

The Pilgrim recipe was said to involve a mixture of persimmons, hops, maple syrup, and, of course, pumpkin. Further south in Virginia, planter Landon Carter mentions pumpkins in his diary in 1765. He, too, concocted some sort of alcoholic beverage from fermented pumpkins. He christened it pumperkin.” [This information also from the history.org article. ]

Boy, I wouldn’t mind having a taste of pumperkin.  That sounds delicious!


NOTE: Be sure you’re buying eating pumpkins rather than jack o’ lantern pumpkins when you try these recipes. And if you want to try pumpkin in more modern recipes, try substituting it fro butternut squash in any recipe.


History.org article on pumpkins from Colonial Williamsburg Journal Autumn 09.

The website  Jas. Townsend and Son made the video. At their online store, theysell items for American Revolution recreators. They carry cooking and eating necessities including some ingredients and cookbooks and DVDs for recreating the 18th century kitchen. (Video is available on you tube).

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Stone, excerpt from New England Magazine, both available at Google Books for search.