Blog: Pumpkin, Pecan, Apple — Oh My God: These Seasonal Favorites Might Surprise You (10/01/22)
It’s time for a specific flavor on the palate: rich, sweet, and preferably served in a pie shell. In other words, pie time! Here’s where our most popular fall pies come from.
History.com says pumpkins originated in Central America and traveled to Europe with explorers back in 1536, where the English quickly wrapped them in a pie crust. Settlers brought pumpkin recipes to New England, but these looked very different than they do now; some layers pumpkin, apple, rosemary, marjoram and thyme in a pie crust, others simply fill the whole pumpkin with sweetened milk and put it in a fire to cook it. During the Civil War, pumpkin pie reached its modern form of custard and gained national fame.
Today, the easiest way to make pumpkin pie is to use a can from Libby’s, which launched its canned pumpkin line in 1929 and made Morton, Illinois, the pumpkin capital of the world. However, Libby’s special “Dickinson” pumpkin strain is more closely related to butternut squash.
Pumpkin pie is also synonymous with the pumpkin pie spice mix and its takeover of all foods from September through Thanksgiving. Is it overused? Yes. Do I care? No.
According to travel and food source Eater, pecans are another native American food. They were spread by natives as far north as Iowa and thrived along the Mississippi River. The English word “pecan” comes from the French “pecan”, which was probably adopted from the Algonquin word for “nut”.
Pecan pie originated in Texas after the Civil War and sometimes included milk or raisins. He remained in Texas until the mid-1920s when the Corn Products Refining Company began printing pecan pie recipes on its Karo corn syrup bottles. Pecan pie has exploded in popularity and even today most recipes call for Karo. (Unless one wants healthy pecan pie, which is an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.)
Apple pie is deeply American, meaning it was invented in England with fruit from Kazakhstan and spices from Indonesia, but the colonies had better marketing.
Culinary think tank Food52 considers the first apple pie recipe to be a 14th-century English cookbook. Most pies were savory at the time, but fruit pastries were a sweet exception. Apple trees and apple pies migrated to the New World with settlers and remained overwhelmingly popular. The phrase “as American as apple pie” first appeared in the 1920s, and that reputation was solidified during World War II when apple pie also took on connotations of nostalgia, patriotism and mid-century American values.
Modern discourse realizes that apple pie is strictly American, ignores its rich international history, and undermines the reality of the American experience. As John Lehndorff of the American Pie Council said, “When you say something is ‘as American as apple pie,’ what you’re really saying is that the article came from elsewhere in this country and was transformed into a quintessentially American experience.”
Samantha Tucker is a staff writer at the Daily American Republic. She can be contacted at email@example.com.