Double Your Pleasure, Double the Mystery
In this recipe from the Eagle in Silver City, NM in 1894, recipes for both pumpkin and squash pies are offered. The pumpkin one uses sugar and the other does not. Also, the pumpkin one is more highly seasoned, relying on numerous spices; the squash pie uses simply nutmeg.
The pumpkin version may have been the pepo or field type with a fairly watery and loose flesh. The long cooking time suggests a watery flesh as it is stated after six hours of steaming only a little moisture is left, akin to a mashed potato.
The squash version may have used a moschata, but this is unclear and perhaps depended on area and custom. (Thanks to Alan Bishop whose comments in my previous post gave great pumpkin information including the basic classifications).
The area is New York City since the article is a reprint from the New York Tribune, yet it is printed away to the west in dry New Mexico. This may suggest readers in both parts of the country had the same understanding of what was squash and what was pumpkin proper.
This is just a guess, but I think the squash type in the article was the Long Island Cheese, a moschata well-known by the late 1800s as discussed in this informative Slow Food USA article (from which the image above is drawn).
According to quotations in the article, the LIC was commercialised in the early part of the 19th century, so relatively late: the first Puritans arrived about 200 years before that. The pumpkin they used was probably different, perhaps the pepo type although I don’t really know.
I suppose it’s possible though that the “pumpkin” in the Eagle was the LIC, and the squash something else, maybe butternut, although both are moschata-family. Pictured is the LIC and it certainly looks like the layman’s idea of a pumpkin, maybe a tad less orange but colour varies anyway in this, um, field.
For a long time, Americans pronounced and often spelled the pumpkin, “punkin”. That has a pleasing modern ring, it could be a hipster expression, à la kickin’.
I like pumpkin a lot in beer. The fashion for it seems to have subsided in the last couple of years, but hopefully there will always be some around. The right combination of pumpkin flesh, pumpkin pie spices, hops, and malt is a kickin’ flavour both in amber ale and porter.
Pumpkin for pie to be properly cooked must be slowly steamed. Peel it, remove the seeds, cut it in pieces and put it in a large iron pot, with about a quart of boiling water to one good sized pumpkin. Cover it close. Let it boil hard for about five or ten minutes, and then set it back where it will steam slowly for about six hours. At the end of this time nearly all the water will be absorbed, and the pumpkin will be sweet and tender. Press it piece by piece through a vegetable press. By this means the pumpkin should be well drained and thoroughly strained, hardly more moist than a well-mashed potato. Take four cups of this strained pumpkin, add four cups of rich milk, a teaspoonful of salt, two of ginger, one of nutmeg and one, of mace, a small cup of sugar and four or five eggs according to their size. Some housekeepers prefer to bring the milk to a boiling point before they use it, and this undoubtedly gives a richer pie. Turn the pumpkin thus prepared into deep pie plates that have been lined with pastry. A properly made pumpkin pie is at least an inch thick. See that at least half the plates are square tins, which give the delightful corner pieces oí old times. A squash pie is much more easily made and this may be the reason why it has taken the place of pumpkin in some localities. For among vegetables: the fittest does not survive, but that which is the easiest handled and gives least trouble. To make a squash pie use five cups of strained and cooked squash to one quart of boiling milk. Add a grated nutmeg, a heaping teaspoonful of salt, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoonful of butter and five or six eggs, according to size. Bake the pie for from forty-five to fifty minutes in a rapid stove oven. In the old fashioned brick oven they were baked about one hour. N. Y. Tribune.