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Victorian pumpkin pie

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“When I was cooking for Mrs. Eddy then we did not have the convenience of a gas stove,” writes Minnie in her reminiscences that can be found in the archives of The Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston. “All the cooking was done on a very small coal range, which was later supplemented by a two burner gas plate kept on the end of the stove. Many times we worked over that inadequate stove until eleven and twelve at night during the canning and preserving season.” (p. 40)

That sounds like a nightmare.

As it was close to Thanksgiving when I asked the Mary Baker Eddy Library staff to bring me Minnie’s copy of “The Art of Cookery” from the archives, I naturally looked up the recipe for pumpkin pie.

I have pointed out before, molasses was a common ingredient in early New England cooking. And the use of molasses in pumpkin pie gives it a much richer, browner color.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, or even pumpin pie spice is not present at all in this simple version of pumpkin pie. I was a little skeptical that I had copied the recipe down wrong when I saw “1 tablespoon ginger” in my notes, but I followed through. As most early recipes do not provide oven temperatures, considering the wide range of stoves in use, the recipe simply instructed, “Bake until pie is brown in the center.”

I consulted a couple of other cookbooks to come up with a satisfactory oven temperature, and used a knife test just to be sure the pie was finished after it had cooked for nearly an hour.

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