Norma Haynie wrote in December to see if anyone had a recipe for squash pie. “My mother just passed, just shy of 97 years of age. And I find I don’t have her recipe for squash pie.” Norma and her older sister recalled that her family was more likely to prefer squash over pumpkin in pie, but they were stuck with no recipe.
Nineteen of you, however, did have a recipe or five, and sent them along. I found exploring these recipes an interesting exercise. Sometimes the answer was as easy as Bangor resident Charlene Holyoke’s answer: “I’ll bet the reason they can’t find the recipe is it is on the can.” She went on to say, “My grandmother used One Pie Squash filling and followed the recipe on the can. I still use it and it is great.” Charlotte Rowe, of Etna, (who, bless her, celebrated her 85th birthday just before Christmas) sent me a can label, saying she prefers squash to pumpkin.
Freddye Fuller in Troy sent along a label together with her adaptations — she replaces the ginger and cinnamon with mace. Fuller noted, “There were 14 or 15 canning factories within Waldo County when I was a child. They canned many vegetables and fruits — now all long gone.” In fact, One Pie still comes from Maine, West Paris, to be precise. One Pie’s recipe cropped up elsewhere in some of the recipes you sent which shows me how popular it is. Donna Gotwals in Stonington commented that she likes fresh squash but uses “One Pie brand squash when in a hurry.”
A couple of recipes called for a 10-ounce package of frozen squash. Neila Ambrose, of Millinocket, sent one each with canned and frozen squash.
Squash pie runs in families. Sylvia Hachey in Dixmont sent her mom’s recipe. “My mother used to make this for us during the 1940s.” She also remarked that her granddaughter, Megan, tried squash pie when she was very young and liked it, making three generations of squash pie eaters. Bill Lawlor and his wife both from Maine but stuck in Potomac, Md., until retirement also remember preferring squash to pumpkin and sent along recipes from a “bedraggled” Fanny Farmer cookbook. Sally Pendleton in Bangor sent her 97-year-old mom’s recipe. “The recipe came from her mother many years ago in Pine Point, Maine,” she wrote. Lois Farr in Dover-Foxcroft sent a recipe from a Rebekah’s cookbook that her mother owned. “I do believe it is the one my mother made because she gave me the cookbook, and she had some recipes checked, this being one of them.
Franklin resident Vickie Palmer’s folks used to run a luncheonette, Tommy’s, in Machias. Vickie shared pages from a booklet printed in 1953 that her mother used for pie recipes, writing, “In the days of the Cutler Naval construction (1950s and into the ’60s), she would make 8 to 10 pies a day,” squash pie among them.
Marjorie Standish included two squash pie recipes in her popular cookbooks that became family favorites for some of you. Nancy Spooner from Amherst sent the Monroe Squash Pie reference. Famous Webster Squash Pie came in from Jane in Nashua N.H., and Jane Newcomb from Owl’s Head. Connie Hegerty, of Yarmouth, wrote that her mother adapted a sweet potato pie recipe from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook. Jane Lyon, Marshfield, found a Squash Custard pie in a cookbook based on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Martha Sadler in Garland wrote, “My father always grew squash in his gardens,” usually Blue Hubbards, from which her mom made pies during the holiday season. Phyllis Whittier in Dover-Foxcroft recalled her father’s garden with “lots of squash.” Butternut squash cropped up in L. Lord’s recipe as a suitable squash and I used butternut, too. The main thing seems to be to cook and drain the squash very well, or steam it to cook it. Some modern pumpkin and squash pie makers will bake the squash to make sure it is not watery in a pie.
I compared and contrasted the recipes as did Ruth Thurston in Machias, who observed there were a lot of variations on a basic theme. Ruth looked at six recipes from New England cookbooks.
The main variables are the proportion of milk, evaporated or fresh, “rich” milk, or cream, plus eggs, to the amount of well-drained squash. Proportions were all over the place with occasionally three eggs to 1 cup squash to one egg to 1 cup squash. Sometimes, a recipe said to heat the milk until hot but not boiling.
Sylvia Hachey’s recipe called for the yolks and white to be separated and the whites beaten until soft, then folded into the squash, milk, sugar and yolk mixture. That would certainly give an almost chiffonlike texture to the pie filling.
Sweetenings ranged from plain sugar, enough to make your teeth ache, to brown sugar, and even molasses. Most recipes called for cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, though Phyllis Whittier’s called only for vanilla as a flavoring. Phyllis’s recipe was interesting because it called for buttermilk or sour milk, the only one that did.
I more or less concluded that you couldn’t go too far wrong with this recipe just by taking a fairly freewheeling approach. Use cream or evaporated milk. Use three eggs or only one. Use white sugar or brown, and add it to taste. Use cinnamon at least, one teaspoonful for the typical pie, but add ginger, nutmeg, even cloves to taste. Try separating the eggs and beating the whites to fold in.
Almost everyone agreed that it was a good idea to start the pie at 425 or so for 10 to 20 minutes, and then drop it to 375 or 350 for 30 to 45 minutes until it was set in the middle.
I won’t put the One-Pie Squash pie recipe in this space because after all you can get it on the side of the can. To arrive at an 8- or 9 inch pie, try to aim for around 2 cups cooked squash whether canned, frozen, or cut up fresh and cooked by you.
Here is the basic theme that Ruth Thurston arrived at and that I tweaked only a little.
2 cups squash
1½ to 2 cups whole milk, cream, or evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon ginger (optional)
Pastry for one crust
Preheat the oven to 425. Mix the squash, milk and beaten eggs well together and add the sugar and spices. Sample and adjust the seasonings. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate lined with pastry. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 375 and bake an additional 40 minutes, or until the center is set.
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