The Pilgrims probably boiled the pumpkin and then mashed it to a puree and then added maple sugar and whatever spices they brought from England. Records show that nutmeg was one of the popular spices the Pilgrims brought with them. They would have preserved this mixture in a glass or pottery jar covered with a piece of bladder from a deer or other animal which was then tied tightly to the top of the jar. When the bladder dries it shrinks and creates an air tight cover.
The Wampanaog would have preserved pumpkin in slices and dried it. Later they would use the dried pumpkin slices by boiling then until they were soft enough to mash and then add maple sugar or syrup or other sweeteners. These are two very different ways to preserve foods.
This is what a jar of preserved pumpkin butter might have looked like in a Pilgrim kitchen.
This is what dried pumpkin and other squashes would have looked like at a Wampanoag home. (Photo from WoodlandIndiansEdu.com)
The recipe below uses modern ingredients such as brown sugar, vanilla extract and more spices than would have been available in the 17th century. But it is an easy recipe and is also a great recipe to make with children. Pumpkin butter can be used as a jam, on top of yogurt or to mix with your oatmeal. It is also a great gift to give at Thanksgiving, especially since it uses pumpkin which is an indigenous food.
1 can Pumpkin Puree (29 Oz. Can)
1 cup Brown Sugar
ľ cups Apple Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
⅛ Tablespoons Allspice
Note: Instead of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice you can use pumpkin pie seasoning/spice in an equal proportion
Dash of salt
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients, except for lemon juice, in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens to the consistency of a spreadable "butter".
Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let it cool. Pour into airtight jar(s) and store in refrigerator.
Make five 1/2 pint jars.