More Pumpkin Fundamentalism

Libby's canned pumpkinBy Tom Lee

Dear Libby,

You seem like a nice person, and a lot of people seem to like you.  So I don’t want to make this any more acrimonious than it has to be.  But, if you could, please direct your attention to the picture to the right and tell me: what the fuck is that supposed to be?

According to your labeling, it’s pumpkin — 100% pumpkin, in fact!  But I think you’re being disingenuous.

Look at this next photo.  On the right: your alleged pumpkin.  On the left: the real McCoy, freshly processed by cleaning the interior of a sugar pumpkin, quartering it and slicing off its skin before cubing it and boiling in water it until it loses its textured white coloration and becomes a translucent darker yellow (similar results can be obtained, I’m told, with the microwave).  I then waited for it to cool and squished it up by hand (if, unlike me, you’ve got a ricer, now’s the time to make that investment pay dividends).

pumpkin comparison
The result is textured, light yellow and smells like squash — because that’s what it is.  Your product is a homogenous dark orange sludge that smells and tastes like, well, industrial pumpkin pie.  Something is not right.

I will admit that some people get freaked out by the pumpkin pies that I make from my real, uncanned pumpkin.  They’re used to consuming a sort of pumpkin gel, and are alarmed when they encounter small, unmashed pieces of squash, deliciously saturated with sugar and spices though they may be.  But many, many more people taste pies made with the real thing and say “I’ve never liked pumpkin pie before, but this is great!”

Do you see? Can you even comprehend the toll upon the American people that your deception has wrought?  I believe you when you say that your product is all pumpkin.  It’s just that I know that in addition to the pumpkin’s delicious, pie-ready flesh, your cans must contain the skins and guts and seeds, too, mass-pureed into a vile industrial goo.  You have not been honest with us, and so you cannot expect any kindness from history’s judgment of you.  I’ll leave it to future pumpkin scholars to render that final verdict, but right now I’d rank you somewhere between Keyser Soze and the tobacco industry on the list of all-time greatest liars.

For those looking for a pie recipe, my mom’s follows.  It’s a good one! But really, any recipe will be vastly improved by the use of real pumpkin.  You’ll want to buy one of the small ones, typically called sugar or pie pumpkins — larger ones are stringy and not suited to pieification.

1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp cloves (optional, I tend to avoid them)
1 1/2 c. pumpkin, real, mashed
1 2/3 c. evaporated milk or heavy cream (I usually make more than one pie, and use half cream, half evaporated milk)
2 eggs

Mix the eggs and cream/evaporated milk in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, thoroughly mix the brown sugar, spices and salt.  Use your hands and break up any small clumps of sugar.  Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet, mixing carefully, ideally with an electric mixer (if you’re doing it manually, spend some extra time breaking up those brown sugar clumps in the previous step).  When fully combined, add the pumpkin and mix.  Pour into a pie crust and bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 35 minutes.  At that point begin checking every ten minutes by gently shaking the pie.  When the center is jiggly but no longer liquid, remove from the oven and cool.  I prefer eating the pie chilled, but it’s pretty nice warm, too (if a bit less solid).  Either way, serve with whipped cream.

7 responses to “More Pumpkin Fundamentalism

  1. verplanck colvin

    Heh. I’ve heard points it the other way (from mom and a friend): no difference between the two. Anecdotal, though, I’ve never had the opportunity to taste the difference personally.

    Further fueling the fire: I think pumpkin beer is bogus. A brewer buddy of mine made up a pumpkin ale with straight pumpkin, no nutmeg, cloves, etc. He didn’t taste any squashieness in it at all. The pumpkin is more of a vehicle for the spices, according to him.

    I’d love to try this pie, though, and figure it out for myself once and for all.

  2. I can report, having made a pumpkin pie from real pumpkins one year, that there is a pronounced improvement in texture from using actual pumpkin.

  3. so does this recipe work well with honey or maple syrup instead of the sugar? just wondering…

  4. Pingback: Pumpkin Purée « The Internet Food Association

  5. winer: Sorry, I haven’t got much experience substituting sweeteners. Based on this advice, you might try substituting maple syrup 1:1 for the sugar, decreasing oven temperature by 25 degrees, and cutting the dairy down to 1.5 cups. Good luck!

  6. winer – i don’t know about maple syrup, but i regularly substitute molasses for white sugar in my holiday baking.

    the joy of cooking (or “rombauer-becker,” as it’s called in my academic household – but only the pre-Ethan Becker editions, when it had all the depression-era goodness still in it) is a great resource for substitutions and conversions.

  7. fwiw, Trader Joe’s brand organic canned pumpkin looks more like the real thing. Tastes good, too. I’ve done some experimenting in the past, and have found that canned works just as well, and often better than, real pumpkin, especially for sweet baked goods. For soup, I’d go for the real thing.

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