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  • Writer's pictureElise

Cook Book Club: October's Spice is Pumpkin Pie Spice!

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

Each month we will highlight a different spice or seasoning. Kits will include this spice, a recipe that highlights it, a little history on the spice or recipe, and some best practices. I'll post the recipes and information here as well, so let's get cooking! The kit has undergone an upgraded appearance and we are adding back in the monthly themed potluck. If low pandemic numbers remain the same or better, we will continue with the in-person meeting October 24th @5pm in our Adult Programming Room in addition to the spices and recipes. We are excited to bring back this element of our cookbook inspired club and the community building it will undoubtedly allow us to do.

Think of our potluck as a community-building event. Each month has a different theme/request. This month's is to bring something that contains pumpkin pie spice or pumpkin. You heard me. This month's theme is pumpkin pie spice or pumpkin, take your pick. It's everywhere this time of year. Might as well embrace it. While it is encouraged to bring something, that isn't required. We just want to get together with others who like/love food and who want to have a little more community.


History of Pumpkin Pie Spice

Adapted primarily from, Food and Wine, Better Homes and Gardens, and UCLA, with reference to and others

Surprisingly, pumpkin pie spice (PS) is neither as new and blasé nor as ancient and wide ranging as various sources make it out to be. It also doesn't have any pumpkin in it. It is true that PS gained a renewed popularity back in 2003 when Starbucks added it to their seasonal latte list and suddenly it was everywhere. Then the History Channel got hold of the idea and put out a post claiming that it was really over 3,500 years old (actually turned out to be more a history of nutmeg than of the spice mixture). It didn't start either place. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Let's start with the humble pumpkin, one of the earliest domesticated crops on Earth (estimated to have started 9000 years ago or so) and native to the Americas. A cultural and dietary staple to many Native American tribes, it was central to a planting technique known as "The Three Sisters," in which three crops were planted together, most frequently maize (corn), beans, and various squash or gourds, and the three together would help to sustain and protect one another.

The three sisters, in addition to having specific plants associated with them, also form a part of the Native Americans' oral folk tradition. In this tradition, the three sisters are the three sisters of Coyote and help balance his mischief with wisdom. There are both clean and dirty versions, but the essence is that these sisters guide and educate. I could get into the debate over Thanksgiving, as some of that ties in to imagery often used, but let's stay on the topic at hand. In terms of diet, the pumpkin especially in precolonial indigenous America was primarily used in savory dishes. Stews and meat dishes and anything where it has enough umami and needs a little sweet to balance things out are often found in conjunction with these sorts of traditional dishes. It wasn't until Europeans came overseas that the natural sweetness of pumpkin was turned into a pie. But that still makes pumpkin as a sweet dish nearly 500 years old and, for about half that time, some combination of spice that looks like pumpkin pie spice being used in conjunction with these pies.

That brings me back to our original topic. The spice mixture used, or something thereabouts, has been in various combinations since the early to mid 1700s in pies and previous to that has its ties in the spice trade when the Dutch and such had control of the so-called "Spice Islands," part of what is now Indonesia, in the late 1500s moving forward.

One of the earliest combinations of spices from that area that looks quite similar to pumpkin pie spice but with a few additions became so popular that it helped launch the Dutch spice trade into the international market. It was actually labeled as pumpkin pie spice by McCormick in 1934 to take advantage of the then recent introduction of canned pureed pumpkin in 1929.


Main Event(s)

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

As adapted from FoodNetwork for use by the Brown Deer Cookbook Club

Makes: 2 cups ● Active Time: 5 min. ● Total Time: 25 min.


  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Toss the pumpkin seeds in a large bowl with the melted butter and maple syrup until well coated. In a separate small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt and paprika. Sprinkle the mixture over the pumpkin seeds and toss to coat evenly. Spread the seeds in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

  3. Bake, stirring the seeds halfway through and rotating the baking sheet, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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