“I have seen fields with the pumpkins so close together that you could have walked over the field by stepping from one pumpkin to another without touching the ground,” wrote my grandfather, Burton B. Coon, as he reminisced about life on the family farm at Trails End.
These words were written in the early 1900s, as he told of life 25 years earlier. Papa Coon, as we called him, was a farmer, as well as columnist for the local newspaper, in Dutchess County, NY,
I enjoy browsing through his collected writings, Fifty Years Ago, Rural Life from 1875, and learning about his life and that of my ancestors. He also was a genealogist and related family history stories, too.
Pumpkin Pie in “Olden” Days
Papa Coon described pumpkin pie as “one of the oldest desserts in this part of the country.” “It has figured in legend and song, as well as pantry and table, ever since the settlement of New England,” he continued.
“We used to gather them with cart and oxen and dump them in some fence corner near the pasture lot,” Papa Coon related. Then they would “throw some over to the cows each morning.”
He also told how “it used to be my job to cut open the big ones and take out the seeds to save for planting.” Then he described how they were stored in the barn and cellar where they were kept for winter use.
Pumpkins Have Long History
The pumpkin has a long history in our country, dating back to the early setters. They were easy to grow and store, so became a mainstay in their diets. Along with squash, they have been considered a food native to the Americas.
Pumpkins apparently originated in Central America then spread northward. The pioneers of our country found the natives using pumpkins and squash so learned to grow and cook them. Boiling, baking, drying, and making them into soup were methods of preparing pumpkins the natives taught the pioneers.
Pumpkin pie seems to be the most popular way of preparing pumpkin. However, you can make bread, cake, soup, custard, rolls, waffles, muffins, soufflé, preserves, tarts, and ice cream. Pumpkin seeds are a good snack, too.
From the Family Cookbook comes:
PUMPKIN ROLL - Sift together ¾ cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon salt; set aside.
Beat 3 eggs on high speed for 5 minutes; then add 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin. Fold in the flour mixture and pour onto a 10 x 15-inch or 11 x 14-inch jelly roll pan lined with waxed paper and sprayed with butter or vegetable spray.
If desired, sprinkle ½ cup chopped nuts over the top. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Tip out onto a powdered sugar dusted cloth and roll up; let cool. Unroll and fill with cream cheese filling.
CREAM CHEESE FILLING – Cream 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons margarine, 8-oz. package cream cheese, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Spread over top. Then roll up as you would a jelly roll and chill; cut into slices.
©2005 Mary Emma Allen
(Mary Emma Allen writes from her multi-generational home in New Hampshire when she’s not traveling for business and doing family history research.)