Thanksgiving is not complete without a slice of pumpkin pie for dessert. This classic New England pumpkin pie is filled with a thick, pumpkin custard flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and molasses.
Pumpkin pie recipes were included in the first cookbooks ever published in America and today’s recipe hasn’t changed much from then. American Cookery by Amelia Simmons published in 1796 included two pompkin pie recipes:
The pumpkin is native to North America and was exported to Europe where it was transformed into many dishes, including versions of pumpkin pies. Simmons cookbook was the first to blend together Northern European cooking with American sourced ingredients. The cookbooks that followed included pumpkin pie recipes that were very similar to these two published recipes.
Tips for Making Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie is a creamy custard pie made from pumpkin puree, eggs, milk, molasses, warm savory spices, and baked in a flaky pie crust. Here are tips for making a classic pumpkin pie from scratch.
Make the Pumpkin Puree
Roast and make your pumpkin puree ahead of time. Since fresh pumpkins tend to be watery, be sure to let the puree drain well before using.
If you don’t have time to make the puree, feel free to substitute canned pumpkin puree. Be sure to select pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. One-Pie pumpkin puree is the brand that New England cooks have relied on for generations. It was once grown and canned in West Paris, Maine.
Prepare the Pie Pastry
Make and chill the pie pastry ahead of time. This all-butter piecrust makes a nice flaky pie pastry. The recipe is for a double crust, but you’ll only need a single pastry for this pumpkin pie recipe. You can freeze the extra one for later.
Use a Deep Pie Plate
This recipe makes enough to fill a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. There are no standard measurements for pie plates, but some of the common pie plates can range from 1 1/2- to 2-inches deep.
- OXO Good Grips glass pie plate is a 2-inch deep, 9-inch pie pan with a cover, which makes it easy to store and transport.
- The common Pyrex glass pie plates are 1 1/2-inches deep. If you have extra filling, you can pour it into 2 well-buttered custard cups or ramekins and bake along with the pie until the center comes out clean. Enjoy as a special treat.
Let the Pie Cool Before Cutting
The filling needs to cool completely to set so it doesn’t ooze out when the pie is cut. Let your pie cool for a couple of hours on a cooling rack so air can circulate around the pan. Once the pie is cool, cover and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm.
Make Ahead Pumpkin Pie
- You can bake the pumpkin pie 1 to 2-days ahead of time. Let the pie cool completely, wrap with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator until dessert time. Fix any flaws with whipped cream at serving time.
- You can even freeze pumpkin pie. Bake the pie in a disposable aluminum pie plate. Let the pie cool completely, place on a baking sheet, and freeze until firm. Once frozen, slip the pie into a freezer bag, label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost the pie in the refrigerator a day before serving.
How to Make Pumpkin Pie
A detailed and printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this article, but these are the general steps for making pumpkin pie:
Step 1: Prepare the Filling
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
Add the eggs to a large bowl, and beat a wire whisk, or use a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment. Add the pumpkin puree, milk, molasses, melted butter, vanilla, and blend. Add the dry spice mix and continue mixing until well combined.
Step 2: Prepare the Pie Pastry
Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick, and 12-inches in diameter, to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Place the pie pastry into the pie plate. Fold and pleat the overhanging dough with your fingers to create a decorative edge.
Step 3: Bake the Pie
Pour the pie filling into the pie crust, and bake in a preheated oven until the custard sets. The center will have a bit of a jiggle that will set up as the pie cools. To test, insert a knife in the center of the pie, and it should come out clean. Bake for a few minutes longer if the custard sticks to the knife.
If you find the edges are browning too much, cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil or a pie crust shield to prevent them from over-browning.
Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack, and then refrigerate before slicing.
New England Pumpkin Pie
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups pumpkin puree drained of extra moisture
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/8 cup molasses
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 prepared pie crust pastry
- flour for rolling out pie crust
- whipped cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 450˚F. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator to let it warm for 10 minutes while you make the pie filling.
- In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and cloves. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whisk, or use a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment.
- Add the pumpkin puree, milk, molasses, melted butter, vanilla, and mix to combine.
- Gradually add the dry spice mix and stir until well combined.
- Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick, and 12-inches in diameter, to fit a 9-inch pie pan.
- Place the pie pastry into the pie plate. Fold and pleat the overhanging dough with your fingers to create a decorative edge.
- Pour pumpkin mixture into the pie crust.
- Bake in a 450˚F-preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperatures to 350˚F and bake until the custard sets, about 50 minutes longer. To test, insert a knife in the center of the pie and it should come out clean.
- Bake for a few minutes longer if the custard sticks to the knife. The center will have a bit of a jiggle that will set up as the pie cools.
- Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack, and then refrigerate before slicing.
- American Cookery – Amelia Simmons
- America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking – Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald
- Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday – James Baker
- “What America’s First Cookbook Says About Our Country and It’s Cuisine” – Smithsonian Magazine
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