Wednesday, April 24, 2024

This Thanksgiving, serve pumpkin pie as they would have on the Battleship North Carolina

U.S. Navy Baker 2nd Class Oscar David Taylor’s pumpkin pie recipe. (Port City Daily photo / FILE)

WILMINGTON —  In the galley of the U.S.S. North Carolina, there is a hand-written recipe for pumpkin pie. A lot of pumpkin pie.

The recipe, along with one for a shortening-based crust, makes approximately 350 pies, over 2,000 servings.

The U.S.S. North Carolina’s S Division. Donald Ayer, B2c, front row, far right. Taylor is believed to be the sailor pictured front row, far left. Not all men in this photo could be identified. (Courtesy Battleship North Carolina).

The pie recipe comes from the cookbook of Oscar David Taylor, a member of the battleship’s S Division. Taylor was a Baker, 2nd class, who reported for duty June 23, 1943, as the U.S.S. North Carolina was returning to sea, assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise in the Pacific Ocean.

Little else is known about Taylor, other than that he developed his own cookbook, separate from the U.S. Navy’s official version. It seems that Taylor needed to compensate for the availability of some necessities, such as fresh milk and eggs. He also added some of his own recipes.

Mary Ames Booker, the curator for the battleship museum, said Taylor’s cookbook was found aboard the ship, sometime after it was decommissioned 1947.

Booker said Taylor’s cookbook included recipes for a large variety of cakes, pastries, puddings, and breads, as well as cornbread and “hermits” — a type of cookie made from shortening, flour, and molasses.

Ayer’s dough recipes. (Courtesy Battleship North Carolina.)

The battleship museum also has some recipes left by Donald Ayers – Taylor’s shipmate and fellow baker – including the pie dough recipe. Ayer’s recipe gives a sense of scale for the galley’s operations, calling for 96 lbs of shortening, 200 pounds of flour, six pounds of flour and “3 1/2 buckets” – or about seven gallons – of water.

The battleship museum offered this quote from Ayers, describing the operation:

“We made a minimum of 340 pies to a shift and did it on an assembly line. One guy chopped out the pie dough. We used 12-inch broomsticks to roll out the crust. One guy rolled the bottom and put it in the pan. He passed it to the next guy, who ladled a quantity of fruit into it and passed it to another guy. He threw the top on it, crimped it down, and passed it to the next guy, who put three of them on a paddle and shoved them in the oven. It was quite an assembly. It didn’t take us very long to make 340 pies.”

Translating Taylor’s original recipes – designed to feed the battleship’s crew of 144 officers and 2,195 enlisted sailors – can be difficult. This is especially true when they call for “cases,” bulk ingredients packaged specifically for the United States Navy.

However, with the assistance of Booker and advice from local pastry chef Amanda Corbett (check out Corbett’s modern take on Pumpkin pie) and chef Chelsea Moran, Port City Daily was able to approximate a recipe suitable for a family Thanksgiving.

Pie Crust Dough



  • cups flour
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon salt


Crust  – Preheat oven to 450’F.

Combine flour and salt. Using a butter knife or fork, cut small amounts of shortening into the flour, until the flour is crumbly. Add water, work to incorporate but do not overwork.







Wrap dough in plastic, refrigerate for four hours (or overnight). Makes enough for two pie crusts and can be frozen.

Roll dough out on clean, lightly floured surface. Cut a circle of dough slightly larger than a nine inch pie tin. Use a spatula or butter knife to lift the dough and set it into the tin. You can use scraps of dough to build the edge of the crust.


Using a fork, mark the rim of the rust and poke holes in the bottom of the crust.


If you have pie weights, use them to keep the bottom from rising. If not, butter one side of a piece of foil. Place the foil butter-side down and fill with beans or rice.


Bake crust for 12 minutes.

Pumpkin Filling



  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup re-hydrated milk powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Filling – Mix dry ingredients. Re-hydrate 3/4 cup’s worth of milk powder (if you can’t find powdered milk, double the amount of evaporated milk). Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar and spices. Slowly incorporate milk. Blend well.


Pie – Preheat oven to 425’F. Pour filling into baked pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350’F. Bake for 40-50 minutes. A knife or toothpick should come out of the filling clean.


Allow to cool for 2 hours.
Happy Thanksgiving!


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