The Story Behind Grandma Menard’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
The funny thing about Grandma Menard’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is that I don’t remember her ever making it. At some point in the 70’s the honor was bestowed upon my Aunt Noel and every Thanksgiving she brought two to dinner. My Grandpa George built a nifty square wooden box with two shelves and a handle to carry these pies to and from.
I was told that my Grandma Martha had gotten the recipe from a Mrs. Tiffany who lived around the corner. Yes, my grandparent’s names were George and Martha. My great uncle Fred, Martha’s brother, married a very eccentric woman named Wilma. I kid you not.
The last time I visited my parents I dug into Grandma’s old recipe box (another adorable little box that Grandpa had found and fixed up for her) to find the original recipe. I found no fewer than 4 different pumpkin chiffon pie recipes, both handwritten and clipped from newspapers. Seems that Mary McEachron AND Dorothy Rideout had claimed ownership of said pie. The newspaper clippings, which had pretty much the exact same recipe, looked to be about 40 years apart in age.
Regardless of where the recipe came from or who made it, we always thought of Pumpkin Chiffon Pie as Grandma’s. It fit her - a classy version of the original, light and fluffed with egg whites, completed with a cloud of whipped cream dolloped atop. A pie as beautiful as she was. It melted in your mouth and, as a young child, made you forget that you were eating pumpkin. The version of the recipe I have is a copy written in her hand, with notes made by Aunt Noel.
Nowadays, I serve the pie in a graham cracker crust that I add just a dash of Ground Ginger to. As Mrs. McEachron suggests, for ‘an extra touch’, I add a few pieces of diced Crystalized Ginger on top of the whipped cream and of course, I use Savory’s Pumpkin Pie Spice. Grandma lists cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves in her recipe, but written very small in the margin she wrote, ‘or pumpkin pie spice.’
Grandma passed away just days after Thanksgiving in 2005, a year after Mike and I had started Savory. She had been too ill to understand that her granddaughter owned a company that sells spices, coincidentally, much like her father had in 1908. But I make her Pumpkin Chiffon Pie every Thanksgiving in honor of her, and something tells me that she knows.
For graham cracker crust:
- 1 sleeve (9 whole) graham crackers, crushed
- 5 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
For pie filling:
- 1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1/2 cup milk
For graham cracker crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into a 9-inch pie plate and bake for 8 min.
For pie filling: Sprinkle gelatin into cold water and let sit for at least 5 min. Beat 3 egg yolks and stir in sugar, pumpkin puree, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and milk. Cook mixture in a double boiler or in a glass bowl set on top of a pot of simmering water for about 20 to 30 min. until mixture is thick, stirring often. Add softened gelatin and stir until gelatin mix is completely melted. Remove from heat and let mixture cool completely. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Spoon mixture into graham cracker crust and chill for at least 3 hours to set.
Serve with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.