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Apples & Pumpkins: The Fruits of Fall

Pumpkin Patch

Every season has its own special foods, and two of the foods most associated with fall are apples and pumpkins. Both are harvested between late August and the end of October, and both have associations with fall in the northern hemisphere. As the nights become longer and the weather chillier, a mug of hot apple cider or a pumpkin spice latte is a favorite seasonal beverage associated with cozy fires and soothing scents.

Apple Bobbing

Apples aren’t just used for food and drink. They are also the main feature in a popular game known as Bobbing for Apples. The bobbing can be snatching the apple from a bucket of water or pulling it off a string hanging on a line. The game’s history reaches back to Samhain, a Gaelic festival that marked the end of the harvest season. 

Today we think bobbing for apples is a game that hopefully will have a better prize for the winner than a wet face and a mouth full of apple. Traditionally, the game was far more “serious” — the winner would be the next person to marry.

Bobbing for apples

A young woman bobbed her head into the water in an attempt to bite the apple with her male suitor’s name on it. If she bit into the correct apple on her first attempt, the couple was fated for love. If she succeeded on her second attempt, the young man would pursue her. If she required a third effort, romance was unlikely.

I don’t know how much apple bobbing goes on today, but hot apple cider remains popular. Plain apple cider requires mashing or grinding the applies to the consistency of apple sauce and then pressing them. If the resulting cider isn’t consumed within two weeks it is likely to ferment.

Homemade Hot Apple Cider

Hot Apple Cider

If you’re looking for a cozy fragrance in your kitchen and you have time to spare, you could make hot apple cider. The recipe isn’t complicated.

Quarter 6-10 apples, place them in a large pot, and cover them with water.

Wrap 4 tablespoons of cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of allspice in cheesecloth.

Place the cheesecloth wrapped spices and 1/2-1 cup sugar in the pot with the applies.

Boil the mixture for 1 hour, and simmer it for another 2 hours.

Remove the spice cheesecloth.

Mash the apples, and strain them into another container.

Serve warm in a mug and add a stick of cinnamon or a few cloves.

Pumpkin Delights


McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin spices have become a primary fragrance associated with fall.

What we call Pumpkin Spice is a mixture of 3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon; 2 teaspoons of ground ginger; 2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg; 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground allspice, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cloves. In 1934 McCormick & Company introduced Pumpkin Pie Spice as a pre-blended mix.

Starbuck Pumpkin Spice Latte


Pumpkin Spice Lattes are a new “tradition.” Starbucks introduced the first Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003. In 2015 the company added real pumpkin puree made from little kabocha pumpkins to the formula. For many happy coffee drinkers, fall begins when Pumpkin Spice Lattes go on sale.


Stew cooked in a pumpkin

The most famous use of pumpkins is in pumpkin pie. It’s the only dessert I bake from scratch. The history of pumpkin pie is worth a moment’s exploration. Contrary to what you might expect, the Pilgrims did not introduce what we think of as pumpkin pie to the world. Instead, they created a soup, or stew, that included milk, honey and spices. It was served inside the pumpkin shell and baked under hot ashes. Colonists also stewed pumpkins to produce ale.

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word for a large melon: peon.
When the fruit arrived in France, it was dubbed pompion. When it arrived in Tudor England, the word changed to pompon.

One of the earliest recipes for pumpkin pie is found in Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion, published in 1675. It’s quite different from the custard we eat now. See what you think.

Front Page. Hannah Woolley's Gentlewoman's Companion

1 pound pumpkin
Thyme, rosemary, marjoram
Cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, cloves

10 eggs
Sugar to taste
Sweet butter
Optional – white wine or verjuice
Optional – 6 egg yolks

Slice a pound of pumpkin.

Take beaten cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and a few cloves, and add them to ten eggs.

Add a handful of thyme, a little rosemary, and sweet marjoram stripped off the stalks – chop them all.

Beat everything together with as much sugar as you feel sufficient.

Fry everything like a pancake, then remove and let stand until cold.

Slice the apples into layers, and layer them on the fried pumpkin pancake.

Add currants on top of the apples.

Add a lot of sweet butter before closing it up

(Optionally) Make a caudle [liquid mixture] of white wine or verjuice and 6 yolks to stir into the pie before it sets up


The first recipe for Libby’s pumpkin pie appeared on the back of a Libby’s pumpkin puree can in 1929. The present recipe came out, still on the back of the can, during the 1950s. Since its first appearance, Libby’s has been the ‘gold standard’ for pumpkin pie. Thank goodness we don’t have to mash the pumpkin pulp.


1 9-inch pie crust

3/4 cup of sugar

Pumpkin Pie

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 15-oz. can of Libby’s pure pumpkin

1 12-fluid oz. can of evaporated milk


Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves in small bowl

Beat eggs lightly in large bowl

Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture

Gradually stirred in evaporated milk

pour into pie shell

Bake in oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15 minutes

Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake about 40-50 minutes until inserted knife comes out clean. Cool at room temperature.


As we shift into fall, remember those famous words by “Unknown,”

Let’s pumpkin spice up a bit. 🤣

🥧 🥧 🥧


Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch by Willis Lam.

Apple Bobbing by Caleb Zahnd.

Bob Apple by Frederick Morgan.

Hot Apple Cider by NatalieMaynor

Container of Pumpkin Spice by Stephen Witherden

Grand Iced Pumpkin Latte by JimmyStardust

Gefüllter Hokkaidokürbis.

Hannah Woolley. The Gentlewoman’s Companion. Wellcome Images.

Sliced pumpkin by Rod Waddington.

Pumpkin Pie.

“Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie.” All Recipes. Apr. 4,2023.

Nina Friend. “The Surprising History of Pumpkin Spice.” Food & Wine. Aug. 24, 2021.

Priya Krishna. “Brief & Buttery History of Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe.” bon appetite. Nov. 20, 2019.

Gerard Paul. “History of Pumpkin Pie.” Many Eats. Dec. 1, 2020.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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