I admit it. I have a large collection of historic Army manuals and other old how to books. I can’t part with them.
A number of the historic manuals contain recipes that just make me curious. If anything, it would be worth making them just for fun and to get an idea of what food tasted like a century or two ago. (I can’t wait to make Artillery Pie, Cannon Balls, and Rice in the Toad.)
When I was growing up on base, we made a few Army dishes routinely like SOS and barbecue beef. We loved them almost as much as we loved rifling through Vietnam era c-rations once a year. (We gave my dad the four cigarettes packed in each ration—Chesterfield’s, Lucky’s, or Camel’s—and we ate the meals and deserts.)
This recipe for pumpkin pie is from the Manual for Army Cooks, 1910, War Department Document No. 244. I did not substitute any of the ingredients called for in the original recipe with one noted exception. I substituted shortening for the lard in the pie crust recipe, and I did down-size the ingredients to make only one pie (the original recipe makes 15 pies).
The 1910 recipe does not give an oven preheat temperature, nor does it indicate how long the pie should bake. I relied on my pumpkin pie recipe for oven temperature and baking times.
The pie? The manual claims that “the recipe may be improved by the addition of a small amount of cream, or of one or more eggs”, but surprisingly, it’s not bad. Cinnamon is not an ingredient in the 1910 recipe, but the nutmeg, cloves, and ginger give it an old fashion taste.
1910 US Army Pumpkin Pie Recipe
For the crust (10-inch deep dish pie)
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup shortening
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cold water
For the custard
- 3 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs slightly beaten
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- To make the pie crust: Add flour, salt, and shortening in food processor. Pulse once or twice. Add water, a little at a time, and pulse. Dough should be moist. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. When ready, roll dough to fit 10-inch deep pie dish.
- To make the pumpkin puree: Cut pumpkin in half with a serrated knife, and clean out seeds and stringy insides. Slice each half into quarters. Place pumpkin slices in a large pot with a steamer basket, and add about 1-inch of water to the pot. Cover, and increase heat until steam begins. Reduce heat to low, and keep pot covered. Steam for about 30-40 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft. Scoop out soft pumpkin with a spoon or scoop. Puree pumpkin with a hand blender until smooth.
- To make the custard: Mix all ingredients until blended in a large bowl except for the milk. Add milk, and mix for a minute more. The custard will be a very thin liquid.
- To assemble the pie: Pour custard into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° for about 60 minutes, or until an inserted knife in the center is clean.