Pumpkin pie is a traditional sweet dessert, eaten during the fall and early winter, especially forThanksgiving and Christmas in the United States and Canada. The pumpkin is a symbol of harvest time and featured also at Halloween.
The pie consists of a pumpkin-based custard, ranging in color from orange to brown, baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon,cloves, and ginger.
This pie is often made from canned pumpkin or packaged pumpkin pie filling (spices included); this is a seasonal product available in bakeries and grocery stores, although it is possible to find year-round.
The traditional method for preparing a pumpkin pie involves the use of a "pie pumpkin" which is about eight to ten inches in circumference, being smaller than a "jack o'lantern" size pumpkin. The pumpkin is sliced in half, and the seeds removed. The two halves are heated until soft. This was traditionally done either in an oven or over an open fire, but modern methods of heating the pumpkin include on a stove top, or even microwave. Sometimes the pumpkin halves are brined to soften the pulp, rather than cooked. At this point the inside "pulp" is scooped out and pureed in a blender to ensure its consistency. At this point, the blended, cooked pulp is about the same thing as canned pumpkin pie filling.
This pulp is then mixed with nutmeg, sugar, and other pumpkin pie type spices, then baked in a pie shell.
The pumpkin is native to the continent of North America. It was an early export to France; from there it was introduced to Tudor England, and the flesh of the “pompion” was quickly accepted as pie filler. The Pilgrims brought the pumpkin pie back to New England, while English method of cooking the pumpkin took a different course. In the 19th century, the English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices and sugar and then baking it whole.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in his 1850 poem "The Pumpkin":
Ah! on Thanksday, when from East and from West, From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?
Oscar Ferdinand Telgmann and George Frederick Cameron wrote the song "Farewell O Fragrant Pumpkin Pie" in the 1889 opera Leo, the Royal Cadet:
Farewell, O fragrant pumpkin pie!
Dyspeptic pork, adieu!
Though to the college halls I hie.
On field of battle though I die, my latest sob, my latest sigh
shall wafted be to you!
And thou, O doughnut rare and rich and fried divinely brown!
Thy form shall fill a noble niche in memory's chamber whilst I pitch
my tent beside the river which rolls on through Kingston town.
And my Love—my little Nell,
the apple of my eye to thee how can I say farewell?
I love thee more than I can tell;
I love thee more than anything—but—pie!
The holiday carol "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" makes a reference to homemade pumpkin pie being looked forward to by a man returning to his family's home in Pennsylvania. "Sleigh Ride", another popular Christmas song, also mentions sitting around a fire after being out in the snow and eating pumpkin pie. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" contains the lyric, "Later we'll have some pumpkin pie / And we'll do some carolling".
Many companies produce seasonal pumpkin pie flavored products such as ice cream, coffee, cheesecake,pancakes, candy, and beer. Several breweries produce a seasonal pumpkin ale. Throughout much of the United States it is tradition to serve pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner.