The pie consists of a pumpkin-based custard, ranging in color from orange to brown, baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger and is traditionally served with whipped cream.
This pie is often made from canned pumpkin or packaged pumpkin pie filling (spices included); this is a seasonal product available in bakeries and grocery stores, although it is possible to find year-round.
The pumpkin is native to North America. It was an early export to France; from there it was introduced to Tudor England, and the flesh of the “pompion” was quickly accepted as a pie filler. The Pilgrims brought the pumpkin pie back to New England, but it subsequently died out in England itself. (NYT: December 24, 2007; A Dessert With a Past, By Kate Colquhoun )
Ah! on Thanksday, when from East and from West, From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?
The holiday carol "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" makes a reference to homemade pumpkin pie being looked forward to by a man returning to his family's home in Pennsylvania. "Sleigh Ride", another popular Christmas song, also mentions sitting around a fire after being out in the snow and eating pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie is regarded in North America as a delicious seasonal treat, and many companies produce seasonal pumpkin pie flavored products such as ice cream, coffee, cheesecake, pancakes and beer. Both Blue Moon (beer) and Sam Adams produce a seasonal Pumpkin ale. All over the United States, it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, often topped with whipped cream.