Saturday, November 22, 2014

1850 - The Great Peabody Pumpkin

ChanticleerA Thanksgiving Story of the Peabody Family 

At this crisis of triumphant explanation, Mopsey, who had under one pretext and another, 
evaded the bringing in of the pie to the last moment, appeared at the kitchen-door bearing 
before her, with that air of extraordinary importance peculiar to her countenance on eventful
occasions, a huge brown dish with which she advanced to the head of the table, and with an 
emphatic bump, answering to the pithy speeches of warriors and statesmen at critical moments, 
deposited the great Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. 
Looking proudly around, she simply said, "There!"

It was the blossom and crown of Mopsey's life, the setting down and full delivery
 to the family of that, the greatest pumpkin-pie ever baked in that house from the 
greatest pumpkin ever reared among the Peabodys in all her long backward recollection
 of past Thanksgivings, and her manner of setting it down, was, in its most defiant form,
 a clincher and a challenge to all makers and bakers of pumpkin-pies, to all cutters and carvers,
 to all diners and eaters, to all friends and enemies of pumpkin-pie, in the thirty or forty
 United States. The Brundages too, might come and look at it if they had a mind to!

The Peabody family, familiar with the pie from earliest infancy, were struck dumb, 
and sat silent for the space of a minute, contemplating its vastness and beauty. 
Old Sylvester even, with his hundred years of pumpkin-pie experience, was staggered, 
and little Sam jumped up and clapped his hands in his old grandfather's arms, and 
struggled to stretch himself across as if he would appropriate it, by actual possession,
 to himself. The joy of the Peabodys was complete, for the lost grandson had returned,
 and the Thanksgiving-pie was a glorious one, and if it was the largest share that was
 allotted to the returned Elbridge, will any one complain ? 

I have to admit this illustration looks more like a pumpkin pizza!

Note: Brundage was a neighbor, with whom the family had a friendly competition when growing
 pumpkins.  Eldridge was an unfairly judged cousin who left home to track down the one person
 who could prove him blameless...he had to travel to the gold fields of the west to find him and 
bring him back to speak the truth for all to hear.

I love the phrase " a clincher and challenge to all makers and bakers of pumpkin-pies".

ChanticleerA Thanksgiving Story of the Peabody Family - 1850

Friday, November 21, 2014

On Receipt of a Pumpkin Pie

In 1898 an educational publication  suggested this poem as a good piece for a Thanksgiving program in  school.  Written around 1850 and showing the American affection for this noble gourd, this poem is a love poem to the pumpkin.


(On receipt of a pumpkin pie.)
Ah! on Thanksgiving Day when from east and from west,
From north and from south come 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 brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling;
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within;
When we laughed round the corn heap, with hearts all in tune
Our chair a broad pumpkin, our lantern the moon—
Telling tales of the fairy who traveled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team. 

Then thanks for thy present; none sweeter or better 
E'er smoked from an oven or circled platter. 
Fairer hands never wrought at pastry more fine, 
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking than thine. 
And the prayer which my mouth is too full to express, 
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less, 
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below, 
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin vine grow, 
And thy life be as sweet and its last sunset sky 
Golden tinted and fair as thy own pumpkin pie!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1895 - Pumpkin Pies Done Right - Recipes and Tips

Two facts in this piece spark my interest.  First, the tip to use the pumpkin liquor to make bread. The second, that it was the fashion of 1895 to have shallow a thin tart perhaps...rather than, for example, the tall bountiful wedges the apple pie currently appears in when well done.

Wayne Thibaud knows pies!
Pumpkin Pies Done Right

"The best pumpkin is the old-fashioned Connecticut field, with its orange golden rind. There are many varieties that cook quicker than this, but none that have the honeyed sweetness which, with slow, continuous cooking, is found in this one. Do not peel it. Cut it up and scrape out the seeds and soft interior. Put it in a large porcelain-lined preserve kettle and pour a pint of boiling water on it. Cover it closely, and let stand where it will slowly steam until its juices are drawn out. Then cook it rather faster, until the juices have been absorbed and it is almost dry. It should cook about eight or nine hours.  Rub it through a coarse sieve, and leave it to drain in a finer sieve over night. 

Use the pumpkin liquor to make brown bread.   (Comment: This is an great idea!!!)

In the morning take a quart of milk to four cups of the strained and drained pumpkin. Add one large teaspoonful of salt, one large tablespoonful of ginger, one of mace, half a nutmeg grated, four eggs, and a cupful and a half of sugar, and mix well. 

Bake this custard in deep pie tins. Make some of the the pies at least in square tins, to provide the delightful corner pieces which are sure to be in demand. A custard of pumpkin should be made at least an inch thick. 

Make mince, apple, and any other pies as thin as the canons of fashionable taste demand, but do not attempt to make a pumpkin pie unless it is generous in size and ample in depth. Such pumpkin pies as these our grandmothers made before the pretentious and insipid squash usurped the place of the golden-fruited vine of the American cornfield."  —New York Tribune 1895

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1675 - Pompion Pye, and 1877 - A Pumpkin Pie Fiasco

Hannah Woolley's recipe, 1675...


Take a pound of Pompion, and slice it; an handful of Time, a little Rosemary, sweet Marjoram stripped off the stalks, chop them small; then take Cinamon, Nutmeg, Pepper, and 146a few Cloves, all beaten; also ten Eggs, and beat them all together, with as much Sugar as you shall think sufficient; then fry them like a Froise; and being fried, let them stand till they are cold; Then fill your Pye after this manner: Take Apples sliced thin round-wise, and lay a layer of the Froise, and another of the Apples, with Currans betwixt the layers; be sure you put in good store of sweet Butter before you close it. When the Pye is baked, take six yolks of Eggs, some White-wine or Verjuice, and make a Caudle thereof, but not too thick; cut up the lid and put it in, and stire them well together whilst the Eggs and Pompions are not perceived, and so serve it up.    (Hmm...what did she say at the end there?  Wikipedia to the rescue..."caudle is a British thickened and sweetened alcoholic hot drink, somewhat like eggnog.")

     Below is an English look at the pumpkin pie in the 19th century...

Mosaic GleaningsA Souvenir for 1877 - Mrs R. Frazier

This brings to my mind circumstance in my own experience, which not inaptly illustrates the importance of attending to minutiae. In the days of my boyhood, my father's family was frequently visited by gentleman who for several years had resided in the United States. His conversation was much relished by our family, and more especially by the younger branches. He was kind of Peter Parley in the social circle, and we always hailed his approach as affording promise of an interesting and instructive visit.
 I can see, in my mind's eye, myself and my brother sitting in our little chairs at his feet, and drinking in with delight his graphic description of matters and things which had come under his notice while in foreign lands. I am not sure but that this gentleman first fired my young bosom with the spirit of adventure, and led me at an early age to roam the world. Be this as it may, I was completely captivated with his conversation, nor was it less relished by the elder branches of the family; for he was well-informed, happy in description, and could embellish the most barren subject by pleasing method of narration. In the course of one of his visits he had mentioned with approbation having eaten pumpkin pies in America. This annunciation produced among the female portion of his audience the most evident marks of surprise. What! make a pie out of a pumpkin? They would as soon have thought of making one from turnip. The conclusion was hastily adopted in their minds that he must be in jest. On the assurance, however, that it was sober fact, the next conclusion was not less hasty: that those who could relish such dish must possess barbarous taste. Our friend left us, but not before he had appointed time when he would spend aday at our house. As he resided some miles from my father's, he was in the habit of setting the time for his visits.

The story of the pumpkin pie seemed to make strong impression on my good mother, and weighed heavily on her spirits. It was such an anomaly in the history of pies, such startling exception to the best established rules of pastry economy, that she could scarcely credit the story, much less acquiesce in the judgment and taste of the narrator in pronouncing it excellent. The result of her meditations was resolution to test the truth by actual experiment; and that the advocate of pumpkin pies might be triumphant or confounded, she determined that the pie should make its appearance on the table, on the very day when he next visited us. 
I have never seen the pumpkin cultivated in England as an article of food, either for men or cattle. In France, I have seen it frequently in the market; and it is used by the poorer inhabitants in their vegetable soups. There was, however, gardener in the vicinity of my father's who raised few, but I know not what use he made of them. To him application was made, and for shilling, fine and rich pompion (for so the word is spelt and pronounced in England) was procured. The pumpkin was brought home and deposited in the pantry, to await the day of trial, no doubt greatly to the astonishment of the cook, who was at loss to imagine to what culinary purpose it could be put.
 As my brother and myself were in the secret, we awaited with no small degree of impatience the appointed day, big with the fate of pumpkin pies. I cannot suppose that the wheels of time moved more slowly than usual in bringing the desired hour, but they appeared to do so, and that to us was the same thing. The tardiness of time is in this respect like fit of hypochondria; imagination becomes reality to the sufferer, and fills him with all the pains and inconvenience that the actual disease would produce.

There was no small stir in the kitchen department on the day when the expected guest was to make his appearance. The pumpkin was brought out and placed, like subject for dissection, on the table. deep dish was brought, rich crust of paste lined it, and the knife was raised to slay the pumpkin. I have no doubt that my mother trembled, and that the servants, who were spectators of the unheard-of deed, were filled with dismay atthe awful experiment. The unhappy pumpkin was, however, soon divided, and subdivided, cut up in its natural state, in pieces about as large as it is customary to cut the fruit in making an apple pie; next, it was placed in the dish appointed for its reception, being well sugared and spiced; next, it was surmounted with coverlid of paste, and finally consigned to the oven. 
At the usual hour our old friend made his appearance, and one or two more were invited to partake of the feast. The dinner passed off much in the usual manner, except gentle hint, which my good mother could not repress, that there was favorite and delicate dish in store, and that it would be well to " keep corner" for that. On clearing away the meat, sure as fate, the pie made its appearance, large, deep, and smoking hot. It was suggested that the dish was of foreign parentage, and hope was expressed that due honor might be done to the stranger. My good mother dealt it out to the expectant guests in no stinted measure, and requested them, if not sufficiently sweet, " to sugar for themselves." 
Alas, the want of sweetness was its least failing! My brother and myself narrowly watched the countenances of the guests, with that unerring knowledge of physiognomy which even children possess. Our observations were anything but favorable, and the promise they afforded of pleasure in partaking of the delicacy, far from flattering. wry face and crash between the teeth proclaimed the presence of the pumpkin, but it did not argue that it was dainty morsel by any means. An unwillingness to discredit the cookery, and feeling of courtesy, obtained for the raw subject reception which he would not have otherwise enjoyed. 
My parents, who, of course, by the established laws of etiquette were the last to partake, felt unquestionably somewhat mortified at the feeble encomiums which were passed on the occasion. One, wishing to disguise his abhorrence of the raw material he was champing, modestly remarked that " he thought the fruit little too crisp." Another had no question of its goodness, but he never was partial to fruit pie. third more bluntly and honestly said that it was not quite baked enough. But now the time had arrived for my mother herself to test her own experiment, and I shall not soon forget the look of utter dismay she gave on tasting the pie. On the very first mouthful, the very first crack at the vegetable, the whole concern exploded. It was pronounced horrible, detestable, unfit for any one but savage or barbarian. 
All eyes were now turned to our " traveled friend," on the strength of whose description the pie had been made. His face was red, tears starting in his eyes, his hands on his sides, and he was choking, not with pumpkin, but laughter. I do not know but that my mother gave him worse look than she did the pie when she first stuck her teeth in its uncooked contents. But the joke was too good to yield to dozen such looks, and it was not till his laughter had found vent that an explanation took place. My mother accused him of having trifled, in his declaration that the Americans ate pumpkin pies, and that they were good. He as stoutly maintained that such was the sober fact. This led to the inquiry how they were made, and the mystery was at once revealed. My good mother had got everything that was good of its kind into the pie, but unfortunately she had forgotten—to stew the pumpkin!

NOTE: I don't know why, by 1877,  this woman did not know about pumpkin pies!!  I'm sure I have read of them in English this and thats.

Later: Wikipedia says: In the 19th century, the English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar and then baking it whole.[4][5]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1891 - A Play: The Goddess of Pumpkin Pie

I am still in my pumpkin pie series of posts...

[The Goddess of Pumpkin Pie stands at back of stage. Enter the "three little maids from school." They approach her, making bows.]
Maids.Three little maids from school are we,
Joyous and happy, and full of glee;
Home for vacation, and glad to see
The Goddess of Pumpkin Pie.
Goddess.Who can eat a pumpkin pie?
Maids (in turn).—I, I, I.
Goddess.Who can bake a pumpkin pie?
Maids (in turn) each give a sigh.
Goddess.—Now here's the recipe, good and true.
Which I will gladly give to you. [Hands it to them.'
When all is ready tap that bell,
And forth will come, as in a spell,
All things you need; so do you well.
(Girls take turns in tapping the bell for the articles to enter.)
(Enter two boys with large yellow ties.) 
Boys.We have come to represent  At your call our pumpkin race.
(They bow, and stand at one side.)
(Enter two girls with white aprons.)
Girls.Eggs you're wanting. Our white shells Of good health Right plainly tells. Mr. Smith no butter sells.
[The name of any grocer may be used.]
(Enter two boys with light and dark brown ties.)
First Boy.I'm the ginger.
Second Boy.I am cloves.
Together.Don't get us too near your nose.
(Enter two girls in while caps and ribbons.)
Girls.— We're the flour so white and clean,
Better you have never seen.

(Entcr two boys with large cream-colored ties.)
BoysMilk is very good to drink, 
Which we an testify.  For pumpkin pie, you'll need, I think, 
One brown jugs' best supply.

(Enter two girls in white dresses,)
Girls.We will be your sugar sweet;                   Taste of us, we're good to eat.
~(Little maids now march among the materials as though mixing, and all sing to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" :)
 We will have a pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie,     We will have a pumpkin pie     For Thanksgiving dinner. [Repeating until thoroughly mixed.]
[Little maids stand at side. Gtrls representing articles join hands in close circle. Boys form large circle around them. All kneel down,while maids advance and thoroughly look them over and nod to each other with satisfaction.)
First Maid.Now it's ready for the baking.
Second Maid. — Oh, what fun there is in making
Three Maids.A good pumpkin pie.
(Three little maids kneel before the Goddess.
Goddess.Blessings on you little maids,
                  These materials, and all aids. 

                  Blessings on your pumpkin pie.

 (Exit goddess, three maids, and others in pairs.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pumpkin Largesse and Largness, and a Little Odd Postcard

Combing the internet for little morsels of 19th century pumpkin memory I am struck by usefulness
of having a kitchen filled with women.
As the second article commented, "a pootty consid’r’ble snarl o’gals..."was insurance of a good meal.

From 1838:
"But I am getting before my story. I was wending homeward, and, on arriving, found supper in readiness. The table of mine host literally groaned beneath its accumulated weight. Toast piled in solid cubes, dough-nuts in towering pyramids, huge bowls of apple-sauce, and pumpkin pies of vast diameter, occupied their appropriate stations. 

When I looked upon the latter, covering platter of a size somewhat less than the bottom of a half-bushel, remark of my old friend, Mark Newcomb, forced itself upon me. He was an extravagant admirer of this savory article, and one day, after having consumed scanty portion, he ejaculated with great emphasis, "Oh, that this whole college green was one great pumpkin pie, and I, placed in the centre, was obliged to eat my way out!" 

Gentleman's Magazine -1838 - excerpt from My First School-keeping by E. Pinckney Morton -(memories of being a university student)

From 1825 comes this description of a huge pumpkin pie in a New England home!  

" Now for supper. There being a pootty consid’r’ble snarl o’gals’, I guess, the supper was bravely furnished.  As usual, in America, puddings and pies, vegetables and meat, were all on the table at once.  We aint proud, I guess.   
Here were ‘sweetmeats,’ i. e. preserved plums; there was a fine goose;    here, was a pumpkin pie, nearly three feet in length, baked in a milk pan; there, a quantity of long, short, and round sauce, or sarse, i. e. carrots, turnips, and potatoes;    here, were dough nuts, a kind of sweet cake fried in lard; honeycomb, new butter, cheese, rye, and Indian bread, i. e. a bread baked in half-peck loaves, made partly of rye meal, and partly of Indian meal, the meal of Indian wheat or maize; there, a prodigious pumpkin, ‘right out o' the oven, by faith,’ perfuming the whole house, while Mariam stood stirring up the ‘innards;’ pouring in the new milk, with now and then a handful of ‘ ginooine' maple sugar; a spoonful or two of ‘turrible good’ corn-stalk molasses, and a little nutmeg, till every body was impatient for a dip, while it was bubbling and smoking;    his neighbours, all a-tiptoe; and a silver spoon, ‘the only one about,’ going the rounds; with a pretty ‘ respectable’ Indian pudding, a plate of pickles, a tub of milk porridge.”
It was a genuine Yankee supper; and such a one as might be met with, now, at a Quilting, Husking, or Raising, of the northern states.

Earlier in the book:
new England supper-table; and a genuine Yankee supper may be worth a moment of our time, and half a dozen sweeps of our brush; a supper and a table, such, as were in fashion, half a century ago; and such, as are still to be met with, all over the " Western Country ;" throughout all the woods and " back parts" of America, —with a few variations, from " hasty pudding and molasses, to hog and homony;" from sweet corn, pumpkin pies, and sarse (vegetables); to buckwheat cakes and goose's gravy, — in many of the smaller towns, and over allthe country parts, of New England.

Brother Jonathan: Or, The New Englanders, Volume 1

 By John Neal1825

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hanky-panky at the Husking Bee :-)

"Let none refuse, for joy shall be High-priestess to the husking bee."(1)

Many hands make work light.  The husking bee was a fine example of how many hands do indeed make work light, and light hearted!  This delightful Northrup, Braslan and Goodwin catalog cover from 1894 shows a romantic view of a custom that at that time was already beginning to be considered old-fashioned.
I find myself using that old saying in art class at clean up time as little kids understand it... after a little prompting :-)    [I found these translations that interest the kids.  Abema hamoi basindika eitara. (Haya - spoken in an area of Tanzania);     Mikono mingi kazi haba. (Swahili - spoken in KenyaTanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, ZambiaMozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands)]

Husking corn is the process of removing the leafy covering - the husk - from the ears to allow them to dry more easily.  Finding a red ear was an excuse for some merriment.  In Maryland the tradition of husking before the fine dinner kept hands flying, with the added treat of finding a red ear allowing a young person to give a girl or a boy of their choice a kiss!  The husking bee was a wilder affair in the earlier 1800's as you shall read below!

A much more jaundiced view of the husking bee from the wild days of the earlier 1800s is disclosed below!
"The Husking, which prevails throughout New England only, is brought about in this way. After the maize, or Indian wheat, is gathered into the barn, the farmer, to whom it belongs, puts a good face on the matter; sends round among all his neighbours; and gives them notice, that he is ready to " shell out;" or, in other words, to undergo a husking. The meaning of which message is; that, as he cannot help himself; on such,or such a night, he will permit all the " fellers" and "gals" to tumble and roll about, in his barn, all night long, if they please; eat his pumpkin pies; drink his cider, and waste his apples; under pretense of husking corn. 
When the practice began, it was an act of neighbourly kindness; a piece of downright labour, done for nothing. It is now, a wicked and foolish frolick,  at another man's expense. Then, it was a favour, which the owner of the corn went about asking of others; it is now a heavy tax, which he would escape, if he could. That, which they are wanted for, is — to tear off the long green coats, from the ear; leaving two or three in some cases; whereby a large number of ears, when they are stripped, may be braided strongly together.  That, which they do, is quite another affair.  Instead of husking the corn, they husk the owner; trample on the product while they toil; and push one another about; sometimes to the squalling of a bad fiddle."

Brother Jonathan: Or, The New Englanders, Volume 1 - 1825


Not that folks weren't trying to make a mechanical husker!

 Letter VIII—Husking Indian Corn By Machinery
To The Editor Of Engineering
Sir,—Indian corn supplies in the United States the place of oats, barley, wurzel, &c, as a winter food in England.  The States of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, produce annually millions of bushels, the husking (stripping off the inner leaves which closely envelop the ear) of which is performed by hand, this being a most tedious and laborious operation. The attention of the agricultural mechanical world has long been directed to the performing of this husking by machinery, and its successful performance by an effectual and reasonably cheap machine, to be run by either hand or horse power, would produce results of the greatest magnitude, by enabling the farmer to husk his corn as rapidly as he thrashes his wheat, and send it to market in large quantities (an impossibility under hand husking). 
There can be no doubt that its immense productiveness, and the large profit derived from its culture, combined with its superior qualities as a winter food, it will take a prominent place, if not the lead, in American exports, so soon as the introduction of perfect machines shall render it possible to "husk" rapidly and in large quantities. Nearly all attempts at husking machines have been in a similar direction, namely, that of picking the ears from the stalks by passing them through revolving fluted rollers, which pass through the stalks and long leaves, but eject and pinch off the ears, leaving them closely enveloped by the leaves or busk, which have then to be stripped (husked) off by passing over or along revolving rubber rollers, whose friction catches the husk and strips it off. 
The passage of the corn over or along the rollers is accomplished solely by sloping them; the corn slides down an inclined plane from the picking to the husking rollers, and thence along them, the presumption being that during their passage the rubber rollers will strip the husk off. The principal objections to all such machines are that the friction of the rubber is not sufficient to strip off all the husk, especially if the corn is damp. That there is no regularity of feed, hence the machine frequently chokes; that the rubber rollers wear out by elongation; that the feed depending solely on gravitation, the ears often get "lodged in the machine, one ear overriding the other. 

The engraving, above, is of the National Husker Company's patent, made by James A. Robinson, Esq., of 164, Duane-street, in New York; it possesses the great advantage of a positive feed, and presses the corn to the husking rollers, thus facilitating the operation of husking...
...There can be little doubt that this is the most perfect husker yet introduced. Every year produces some twenty patent husking machines and devices; every agricultural fair has them on exhibition, where they generally undergo successful trials, but these machines generally prove unequal to the task of husking all kinds and conditions of corn. There are many difficulties to contend with; the corn from one field will husk readily in a machine that totally fails to husk the corn from the next field; damp com will scarcely husk at all in one machine, and husks readily in another, although there is no perceptible difference in them; some corn will shell off the cob in husking, and thus waste; others will not shell; the same com will husk better one day than the next. So many corn buskers have been tried and met with only partial success, that the farmers look with suspicion on anything of the kind, and begin to pooh pooh the entire thing as an impossibility. Tet inventors persevere, knowing that there is an immense fortune in store for the inventor of a perfect husker. Mr. Robinson expects to place his machine before the agricultural world in such a state of perfection that next autumn will convince the most sceptical  of the success of husking machines, under any conditions of trial. He has devoted years of experiment and a large sum of money to this object, and there is reasonable ground to expect that from the near approach of his machine to perfection, with the improvements to be introduced this summer, he will reap his reward by the general introduction of his husker into practical use. 

A fine collection of memories about husking are here at the Farm Collector site.