The perfect pumpkin pie. rich, simple, delicious, that’s how I would characterize the nearly two-hundred year old recipe of Lydia Maria Child.  Despite the recipe title, Mrs. Child focuses on pumpkin, on the presumption that other common winter varieties of squash such as acorn, butternut, and turban behave the same way in the kitchen. So make this versatile pie all year around!

  • 1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 3 lbs)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger, more to taste
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, optional
  • 3 eggs, whisked to mix
  • Two 10-inch pie shells

Two 10-inch pie pans

1. To cook pumpkin: slice skin from top and bottom of the pumpkin. In a curving motion, cut remaining skin in segments from the sides, working from top to bottom. Cut flesh in half, scoop out and discard seeds and cut the flesh in chunks; they should weigh about 2 pounds. Put pumpkin in a saucepan with water to cover base of the pan. Add the lid and cook over medium heat, stirring often, so pumpkin steams until it can be crushed easily with a fork, 30-45 minutes. Crush it with a potato masher or purée in a food processor until smooth.

2. Chill the pie shells. Heat oven to 400˚F/200˚C and put a baking sheet low down on a shelf to heat. For filling, heat milk in a large saucepan. Stir in pumpkin purée and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, so the mixture thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Let cool to tepid, then stir in sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon if using. Taste and adjust sweetness and spice. Lastly stir in eggs.

3. Transfer filling to pie shells. Set pies on the heated baking sheet and bake in the oven 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350˚F/180˚C and continue baking until pies are firm but slightly wobbly in the center, 40 to 50 minutes more. Serve at room temperature. Makes two 10-inch pies.

Photo Credit: Christine Matsuda