Thanksgiving Special: A Shortcrust History of Pumpkin Pie

If you’re in the USA you’re undoubtedly getting ready for one of the biggest feast days of the year – Thanksgiving. Perhaps your thoughts are already being filled by the delicious delicacies that you’ll be treating yourself to. Turkey, stuffing, mac n’ cheese, green bean casserole and of course – pumpkin pie. It may surprise you discover that this Fall dessert, whilst delectable, wasn’t found on the tables at the first Thanksgiving. Nor did it originate in the New World. In fact, it’s far more of a modern day staple for Turkey Day.

Evidence suggests that pumpkins originated in South America over seven thousand years ago and overtime also became native to New England. It’s believed that Native Americans traditionally prepared pumpkins by cooking them in slices over the hot coals of their fires. The vegetables began being exported to England and France during the Tudor period and the versatility of them were quickly recognised, including using them as a filler.

Pumpkin pies as we know them today were developed in the mid seventeenth century in France. Renowned chef Francois Pierre la Varenne created a recipe for a pompion torte - a pastry crust with a sweet pumpkin filling. Similar recipes began appearing in English cook books by 1675, one of the most notable being Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion. Meanwhile, it took 150 years for Varenne’s creation to begin appearing in American cookbooks, and it was only then that the pies began become a common item at the Thanksgiving table.

However, despite this beloved pie not being present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the vegetable itself certainly was. Pilgrims had brought pumpkin recipes with them on the Mayflower that were sweeter than that of the the Native Americans. In fact, they served a kind of pudding at the iconic dinner which involve hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with milk, honey and spices. It was then baked in hot ashes.

Regardless of the pie’s origin, it continues to be a staple at American Thanksgiving dinner tables today, as well as a symbol of the Fall season in general. With that it mind, you should probably go and have a slice.

The Delicious History Podcast Project

Greetings, Food History Lovers!

It was a year ago that I first started this blog. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’ve be fortunate enough to find that there are quite a few people out there who are interested in the tasty world of Food History. I now want to take the next step in sharing my food related historical tidbits with the world by creating a companion podcast to go with the website. I think it will be an fantastic way to build a larger following, as well as prove how fun and delicious history can be. Who doesn’t love a little food and humour with their education

Now here’s the tricky part. Thanks to a recent redundancy, I need your help you make this dream a reality. Podcasts need equipment, software, media hosting, artwork, and music – all of which need to be paid for. Because I can’t rely on the kindness of retailers to simply give me the resources I need, I’m hoping that some of my beloved readers can help me to get Delicious History onto the internet airwaves.The best part about pledging to the Delicious History Podcast Project is that every donation entitles you to a reward. That’s right, if we hit our target you not only get Delicious History in your earbuds, you also get a BONUS PRIZE. What’s not to love?

So if you love food, history or my good self, please help get Delicious History into an iTunes store near you! If you also wouldn’t mind reblogging or sharing the project with your friends and other fellow history lovers, I’d be eternally grateful.Simply follow the link below for more info or to make a pledge -Delicious History Podcast Project
Thank you in advance for supporting Delicious History and for making this first year in the blogosphere truly amazing.

The Tale of the Oldest Surviving Whiskey

Happy Monday everybody!

I thought it would be quite fun to kick off the week with some alcohol! Isn’t that how everybody starts their Monday mornings? I kid, I kid. I am of course referring to an alcohol related topic and definitely not the hip flask I keep in my office desk.

Today we’re delving into the discovery of the oldest surviving whiskey to date. It’s really quite fascinating and I expect it will hold the interest of all of you booze hounds who are only here because of the ‘whiskey’ subject tag.

Our tale starts in 1907 with the Nimrod expedition to Antarctica by well renowned and respected explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton was a principal figure in what is quite grandly referred to as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He was considered to be a hero by his contemporaries and was appointed as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by King Edward VII. On a darker note, he also became increasingly well known for his alcoholism, particularly during World War I.

Shackleton clearly qualifies for the Historical Hotties list I run on Twitter and Pinterest

This was not Shackleton’s first time to the Antarctic. He was an experienced explorer and as such, knew the important provisions that were needed. Some of these included pickled herrings, mulligatawny soup, gooseberry jam, and marmalade. My mother always told me never to travel without a spare change of underwear and a large jar of gooseberry jam.

We have missed one provision though. Most importantly of all, Shackleton and his men required an impressive 25 cases of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whiskey for those cold and lonely nights in the Antarctic. Furthermore, he ordered them with commemorative labels that were custom made for his expedition. Shackleton clearly knew how to party.

The exploration team spent two years in the Antarctic and managed to get as close to the south pole as any explorer had up until that point in time. However, despite this great feat, it seems that the men were absolute light weights because they left five crates of alcohol behind. For shame!

Shackleton’s whisky was forgotten until 2006, when conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Foundation found the five lost crates beneath Shackleton’s hut. Conservators spent a gruelling three years chipping away at a century of ice before they successfully rescued three of the crates.

The whiskey was subjected to a wide array of tests by chemists at Whyte & Mackay’s Invergordon distillery, with input from analysts at the Scotch Whiskey Research Institute in Edinburgh. Under sterile conditions, a sampling needle was passed through the cork of each bottle to remove a 100ml sample. Analysis revealed, amongst many other things, that the whisky was incredibly well-preserved and that the alcohol content stood at 47.3% – high enough to stop it from freezing. Another fascinating revelation was that the whisky was made with water from Loch Ness and peat from the Orkney Isles.

One of Shackleton’s original bottles – Only a select few have tasted the 116 year old whiskey, all in the name of science. And probably for the bragging rights.

I hope you didn’t think that was the end of the tale, because the plot thickens! Whyte and Mackay had an ulterior motive for having the whisky tested. Not only were they interested in the history of whisky making, they had every intention of attempting to remake the whisky for the modern-day market!

From the test results, master distiller, Richard Paterson managed to blend a number of concoctions similar to Shackleton’s whiskey. The final blend was then subjected to the same analysis as the original whiskey to check for authenticity.

The successful remake is now available in stores under the name ‘Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whiskey.’ If you were thinking of tracking down some of these bad boys you will want to have a delicate palate and a healthy bank account because it’s going to set you back AU$199.99. Per bottle.

As a final note of interest – The bottles that travelled to Scotland for analysis will soon be returned to Shackleton’s hut for conservation purposes. For those who were paying close attention, you may have noticed that I only mentioned three of the five crates being recused from the Antarctic ice. Fortunately for us, the other two weren’t damaged or lost, they are still buried beneath in the ice. The label on these crates state that they are brandy, and they are yet to be analysed. Watch this space for further updates.