Jack O' Lantern is making his annual visit. We'll soon see him with his glowing toothy grin leering from porches and windows across America. Jack's name reveals his Celtic origins. He may have come to this country from Ireland, but he acquired his round, orange countenance right here. On the ould soil, he was carved from turnips and rutabagas.
Pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere. It was cultivated in Central America as early as 5500 B.C, as a staple of the Native American diet. They introduced it to European settlers who soon added it to their diet as well. The Europeans learned the versatility of the pumpkin, roasting its seeds, using it in stews, soups and breads, cutting the dried shells into strips and weaving them into mats. They used the leaves and blossoms raw or fried as vegetables. Pumpkins served medicinal purposes as a remedy for snakebite, a cure for freckles, and its seeds were considered a protection from prostate cancer.
The early European settlers made pumpkin pies by hollowing out the shell and filling it with milk, honey and spices before baking it. Whether this recipe came from Native Americans or not is unknown.
Whether you puree the remains of your Halloween pumpkin or take a can off the shelf, here's my favorite pie recipe for this season.
APPLE BUTTER PUMPKIN PIE
1 c. solid pack pumpkin
1 c. apple butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. undiluted evaporated milk
9 inch deep dish pie shell
Streusel topping: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional).
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine filling ingredients in order given; pour into pie shell. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted two inches from center comes out clean. Top with streusel topping. Bake for additional 15 minutes.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
Note: Cover pie crust with foil pieces or cut 9 inch circle of foil; cut out center leaving 1 inch wide ring of foil, place foil halo over crust edges.
Barbara Scott is the author of West of Heaven, Cast a Pale Shadow, and Talk of the Town