• Kate McGowan

Testing an 18th Century Candied Pumpkin Recipe

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

We’re well into the winter holiday season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy pumpkin, right? In today's calendar of seasonal flavors, we tend to restrict pumpkin to the fall, AKA: Pumpkin Spice Season, but historically pumpkin’s thick rind made it ideal for longer-term storage that meant it could be eaten into the winter.

A few weeks ago, I set out to find some unique pumpkin recipes from the 18th century, when I found this recipe, entitled "To make Pompion Chips” in a manuscript cookbook from Harriott Pinckney Horry:

"Shave your Pompion thin with a plain and cut it in slips about the width of your finger, put shreds of Lemon peal among it, wet your sugar with orange Juice and boil it into Syrup. Then put in your chips and lemon Peal and let them boil till done."

"Pompion" didn't give me much pause, as the term was interchangeable with "pumpkin" in many parts of the colonies, but a few other unusual things jumped out to me right away. To start, even knowing Mrs. Horry was from a prominent and affluent plantation family, (her mother, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, is credited with helping establish indigo as a South Carolina staple, while her brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was a signer of the U.S. Constitution) the ingredients stuck out to me as being somewhat pricey and hard to come by - orange juice AND sugar AND lemon peel? Beyond that, the recipe feels so modern. Despite being a fairly sweet dish, the recipe doesn't call for any cream, wine, or even nutmeg, all staples of Anglo-American sweet dishes of the time. And beyond this still, the similarities between this recipe and modern Mexican candied pumpkin were striking.

What is Candied Pumpkin?