Pumpkin Soup

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You'll find this recipe in:
The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery
Henry & Elizabeth Richards
Hamilton, 1861

Historic Recipe:

Pumpkin Soup.
16. Is a favourite dish in many parts of France, especially with the juveniles; and when, in season, there is not a school, college, hospital, convent or monastery, where it is not made; a proof that it must be very wholesome. The Vegetable Marrow, the American Butter Squash, and the Mammoth Gourd, are good substitutes.

Cut about two pounds of the flesh of the pumpkin into large dice, put it into your pan, with three ounces of butter or fat; add two teaspoonfuls of salt, the same of sugar, a little pepper, and half a pint of water; set on the fire, and stew gently for twenty minutes. When in pulp, add two table-spoonfuls of flour, stir round, and moisten three pints of either milk, skim-milk, or water, boil ten minutes longer, and serve with fried or toasted bread, cut in dice.

☞This soup is on the list of meagre soups, and freely partaken by Catholics during Lent, the word meagre meaning, want of strength. But this soup, and many others in the same category, are well worth the attention of the middle class of this country, it only being meagre in name, and not in fact, as it possesses a large quantity of farnaceous matter; bread also being served with it.

My Recipe

2 lbs pumpkin or squash – 8 cups when chopped
1/3 cup butter, oil or fat – 3 oz
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Dash of black pepper
1 cup water – 250 mL
2 tbsp flour
6 cups milk and water – 1.4L
(I like 3 cups milk & 3 cups water)


1) Peel, seed and chop the pumpkin or squash into small pieces. I've made this recipe with both pumpkin and butternut squash and both are delicious.

2) Put the chopped squash in a large soup pot with the butter, salt, sugar, pepper and 1 cup water. Put on the lid and simmer until soft and mushy, stirring often. 1 cup probably won't seem like enough water to you, at least it didn't to me, but I've made this recipe 5 times (once at my house and 4 times at cooking classes) and it's just the right amount.

3) Once the squash is mushy, mash with a potato masher, then stir in the flour. Add the milk & water, mix well and reheat.

Optional: the historic recipe suggests "serve with fried or toasted bread, cut in dice". Instead of popping my bread in the toaster, I fried it in a pan of butter before I diced the bread. Recommended!

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This Pumpkin Soup is hearty & flavourful, and I think the reason for this can be found in a one-word answer: butter. Expect a creamy robust soup with small chunks of pumpkin (or squash, if you can't find pumpkin). This soup is so rich that it might make a better side dish rather than the main component of your meal, but if you do try this recipe out, I highly recommend the historic recipe's suggestion of adding croutons made of fried bread to your bowl!

We made Pumpkin Soup at the open hearth cooking classes I taught at Nelles Manor Museum in Grimsby this fall. I really wanted to make some recipes with a local connection at these classes, so I perused a scan of The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery online to find a seasonable autumn recipe and Pumpkin Soup is what I found.

The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery was compiled by Henry & Elizabeth Richards and published in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario in 1861, which is about a 30 minute drive to Grimsby these days (unless the highway is jammed with traffic going to Niagara Falls). Henry Richards was was a printer and was employed at the time of The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery's publication at the Hamilton Spectator, which is still Hamilton's local newspaper today.

In his Preface, Richards writes that "the compiler has been somewhat indebted to a late work by M. SOYER's, the celebrated French Cook, as well as to some of the latest English, French, and American works on the same subject; and having thus carefully culled and collated from these sources all that was valuable and applicable to this country, he most respectfully admits the same for the approval and patronage of the Canadian Housewife".

Considering Canada's social identity as a quilt assembled from many cultures, I find it fitting that Henry and Elizabeth Richards turned to recipes from other countries and put them together to create a cookbook for Canadians. The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery features some ingredients native to Canada, such as pumpkin, but also has an unusual number of tomato recipes for that era, sections on cooking wild fowl, rabbit & hare and a chapter on "Ale, Beer, Wines and Summer Drinks".

Read the Cookbook: