This time of year is full of the crisp scent of fall, warm goodies baking, and nog being swilled. It makes you want to have some pumpkin pie (unless you're like me & the only pumpkin-y thing you like is pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!). But first, A HISTORY LESSON! (Cuz I love history, especially when it comes to my New England heritage).
Early American settlers of Plimoth Plantation (which I've been to, and it's totally awesome. Make a point of visiting, mmmkay?), the first permanent European settlement in southern New England, might have made pumpkin pies (of sorts) by making stewed pumpkins or by filling a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then baking it in hot ashes. An actual present-day pumpkin pie with crust is a myth, as ovens to bake pies were not available in the colony at that stage.
Northeastern Native American tribes grew squash and pumpkins. They roasted or boiled them for eating. Historians think that the settlers were not very impressed by the Indians’ squash and/or pumpkins until they had to survive their first harsh winter when about half of the settlers died from scurvy and exposure. The Native Americans brought pumpkins as gifts to the first settlers, and taught them the many used for the pumpkin. This is what developed into pumpkin pie about 50 years after the first Thanksgiving in America.
The early settlers of Plimoth Plantation brought English cookery and possibly some English cookbooks with them to the new world. The present day historians of Plimoth Plantation don't really know what cookbooks, if any, were owned by the 17th century settlers.
--From The History of Pumpkin Pie.
So we're going to go back to the year 1671, and do this pumpkin pie old school! Like... REALLY old school. So old, your Grandpa Grok would be proud. Aaaand, we're gonna use ingredients that may have been more seasonably available to our ancestors, rather than taking the "I can just go to the store and buy it" method.
What you'll need:
1 large sugar pumpkin (they may go under the moniker pumpkin pie pumpkin-- and mine is very small for demonstration purposes. Aim for jack-o-lantern size, or cut recipe in half)
1 can full fat coconut milk (like Native Forest or Thai Kitchen. The pilgrims probably used cream instead, but I'm being nice & making this paleo for you :P)
1.5 cup Grade B dark amber maple syrup (the bulk of it cooks out, and yes, the Grade B dark amber part IS important)
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2T light molasses (not full bodied)
1/2T ground star anise
1/2T ground cloves
1T vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
preheat oven 350F (honestly, if I had my way, there would be a pit in our yard with smoldering hot coals... but I don't think the husband would be very amused!)
Cut top off of pumpkin, and gut it. It's Halloween all over again! Make sure the "lid" is cleaned too. Give the pumpkin a good scrubbing so it's all perty for the party.
At this time, place your pumpkin into your pre-heated oven for 30 mins. Meanwhile, in large pan over medium heat, combine eggs, coconut milk, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.
Whisk together just until warm bubbles begin to form.
Remove pumpkin from oven and pour custard into pumpkin cavity. And if you're thinking that maple syrup is gonna give you cavities, quit it. A lot of the sugar bakes off and we want the mapley sweetness to balance out the savory of the pumpkin. Fill to within 1 inch of top.
Make sure you wipe off any moisture (splashed custard) from the outside of the pumpkin prior to baking.
Place pumpkin in glass baking dish with the lid on it. Bake until custard is set (about an hour & 1/2, but check it at an hour.)
Remove from oven and allow to stand at room temperature until comfortable to handle. Cut yourself a slice and dig in! It's bound to be a showstopper ;)
A NOTE FROM THE PJF: If you plan on making this for Turkey day, it's a great thing to do right after the big meal. While your guests are busy succumbing to a tryptophane-induced coma, you can magically assemble this Thanksgiving classic. By the time they wake up, you will be slicing into the showstopper!