The pumpkin pie edict.

I have been baking pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving for years. Always complimented on them. A few weeks ago I tried a piece of pumpkin pie from the big warehouse store, they are know for their pies. I didn’t like it. The taste was off. I read the list of ingredients on the package I was surprised by all the stuff they put in their pies. The biggest thing I noted was all the spices and such.

I looked up the recipe used by Libby on their canned pumpkin. The only spices were cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Nothing else. No nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, pumpkin pie spice and other stuff found in commercial pies. I decided that the Libby recipe will be used this year.

The pie was a smash. This morning I received an edict from my 88 year old father in law. Best pumpkin pie he has ever had. And my pies will be the only pumpkin pies from now on.

I like the Libby recipe too. I also do the same recipe for sweet potato pie, except I do add vanilla.

I’ve been using the Libby’s recipe for years. Except that (a) I double the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and (b) I use a store-bought graham-cracker crust, because I think pumpkin pie goes better in a graham-cracker crust, and I’m too lazy to make my own.

Also, pretty much every store-bought pumpkin pie I’ve ever sampled has been boring as shit. I understand why people say they don’t like pumpkin pie, if that’s all they’ve ever had.

I agree, you mostly just taste bland sweetness. The texture of homemade is better too, not sure why. I am guessing it has to do with the commercial overuse of cheap sweeteners. I did taste the Costco pie not long ago, and it was better than most, although not as good as if I made it from scratch (with canned pumpkin, I don’t want to deal with pureeing pumpkin myself).

Pumpkin itself really doesn’t have all that much flavor. When people refer to the taste of pumpkin pie, positively or negatively, what they really mean is the taste of the spices. Whichever pie has the spices you like will be the pie that you like.

I didn’t like the libby recipe - this is the one I follow -

  • and I do add a bit more cinnamon than called for - I like the condensed milk better than evaporated+sugar - just seems to have a better texture when done.

…hence the marketing of everything and sundry as “Pumpkin Spice Flavor”.

Agree with a, but disagree on b. I much prefer a pastry crust.

Oh, and my sister said she heard a bit on NPR the other day that canned pumpkin these days is not actually pumpkin. It’s other kinds of squash. She heard it while driving and couldn’t remember more detail than that.

It’s pumpkin, but not all pumpkins are the big orange ones that you carve into jack-o-lanterns. Other varieties have always been better for eating.

THere is specifically a “Pie Pumpkin” - usually about half the size of JackOLanterns.

Processing a fresh pumpkin doesn’t have to be difficult. I like to grow the Sugar Pie variety. Nice, fine-grained pulp.

Hack that sucker in half and steam it for between 20-30 minutes. Then remove the stem, scoop out seeds and separate the pulp from the skin into a food processor. Process the dickens out of it until it is as smooth as you like. If it’s watery, let the pulp drain for a moment or two in a sieve lined with a little cheesecloth. Measure out 2 cups and proceed as you ordinarily would with canned pumpkin.

Worth it.

If you want to save back some seeds to plant for the following year, obviously grab those before steaming.

racer72, I agree it’s easy to over-spice a pumpkin pie. Libby’s recipe is the one to stick with. :slight_smile: Crust is a personal preference, but I’m with carrps. Pastry crust for me, thanks.

I can agree to disagree on the crust. But

a pumpkin pie without cloves?? That’s just a bridge too far for me. :stuck_out_tongue:

I used to do fresh pumpkin or butternut squash out of necessity for many years (where I lived they didn’t have canned pumpkin) and, honestly, I never found it worth it. The can of Libby’s was just as good to my tastes. To be honest, the best “pumpkin” pie, IMHO, is actually sweet potato pie. That one I make from scratch with the sweet potatoes.

As for spicing, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and a dash of nutmeg or mace are my basics. I like to keep it relatively light on the spice, though. The Libby’s proportions are about right. And, crust-wise, I’m a graham-cracker (or ginger snap, or whatever cookie/cracker you like) crust guy for pumpkin pie. To me, that’s just a pie that scream for that type of crust, not a pastry crust. I like pastry crust for most pies, with cheesecake, pumpkin pie, key lime, and any of those custard-based pies, I prefer a graham cracker crust.

China twin made a pumpkin pie from scratch yesterday. Made her own crust, baked a pumpkin, but used a “pumpkin spice mix”. Man, even I liked a small slice of it. I think the difference was DIY versus using a canned pumpkin. Quite proud of her baking skills.

I prefer the recipe on the “one-pie” can. But I’m not really a pumpkin pie eater, I make if for my relatives. All I know is that the one-pie pie was very popular yesterday, and most of the leftovers went away when the guests did.

I tend to use a heavy hand with the spices. One year I foolishly bought some organic pumpkin and carefully followed the recipe on that can. No one liked it. They asked if I’d forgotten to add the spice. I hadn’t, but when I looked at the recipe, it called for less spice (and less sugar) than any other pumpkin pie recipe I’ve ever seen. The finished pie tasted like pumpkin, not like dessert. Anyway, since then I’ve made sure to add enough spice.

I’m dubious that there’s an exact scientific definition of a “pumpkin”. I think a pumpkin is the subset of winter squashes that we collective agree is pumpkin-y. The WSJ did a piece on the pumpkins that are grown for Libbys. They included a picture, and said that most Americans who came upon this fruit growing would say 'it looks like some kind of squash". Which is true, but while it is a lot longer than it is wide, and smoother and less orange than what we usually think of as “pumpkins”, it looked sorta pumpkin-y to me. And the stuff in the cans that’s labeled “pumpkin” smells more like a jack-o-lantern pumpkin than, say, like a butternut squash.

People routinely cook with the little sugar pumpkins that look like small jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but have a firmer, sweeter, less watery (and less stringy) flesh. They also smell like the stuff in the cans labeled “pumpkin” and like jack-o-lanterns, maybe even moreso than the canned stuff. Maybe that’s more “real pumpkin” than the canned pumpkin, but honestly, what it smells like (and therefore tastes like) seems more important in a canned pureed vegetable than the shape and external color of the growing gourd. And the canned stuff tastes a lot like those pumpkins.

The Journal article also mentioned that the FDA (or maybe the USDA?) promised in the 40’s that it was not going to regulate which squashes are sold as “pumpkin”


I have enjoyed all the pumpkin pies I’ve ever bought, especially from grocery store bakeries. I have never actually made one.

But yeah, the spices… My friend L. , who cooks and bakes a lot, gave me some pumpkin pie a few years ago that she had made according to her mom’s recipe. I took it home, took a bite…and couldn’t finish it. It had No. Flavor. At. All.
I’m not sure there were any spices used whatsoever. How could this be anyone’s family favorite?

Well…yes. But it isn’t just that. It’s zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, etc.. It is not however the very slightly pumpkiny butternut squash ;). That’s the problem with quite a few vegetables - many are just virtually unrecognizable cultivars of the same species. The Brassica vegetables are particularly notorious.

Best not to worry about strict species in these cases, but just go with what it looks/tastes like as you say. Pumpkiny? It is ipso facto a pumpkin :).

I’m tired of the traditional pumpkin pie so I made pumpkin cheesecake. I whipped the egg whites and folded them into it and it was nice and fluffy. I added zest of an orange but forgot to buy fresh ginger. You could smell the grated cinnamon and nutmeg. Came out pretty good. Next time I’m going to try an almond butter crust. Oh, threw in a couple of dollops of Dulce de Leche in place of some of the sugar.