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February 4, 2007

Canned pumpkin (Recipe: pumpkin pie)

Cannedpumpkin

On the downside, you can't carve a canned pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern.

On the upside, you can make a pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread or pumpkin ravioli in no time.

Case closed, because there's no better reason for having canned pumpkin puree in The Perfect Pantry.

Most of the time, I advocate for fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are instances when frozen or canned are, if not superior, then equal to fresh. Pumpkin (botanically a fruit, though it's used as a vegetable) is one of those products.

Why?

First, canned pumpkin puree is convenient; taking a fresh pumpkin to the puree stage is a time-consuming process of peeling, chopping, roasting and mashing. Second, canned pumpkin (which, by the way, is often butternut squash, so be sure to read the label carefully) yields a product that is more consistent in texture, with a more concentrated flavor.

Pumpkin is naturally good for you. It's low in fat and incredibly high in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to Vitamin A. Don't mistake canned pumpkin pie mix for pure pumpkin puree, though the packaging often looks similar. Pie mix contains spices and sugar; pumpkin puree is 100% pumpkin. Leftover pumpkin can be stored, in a freezer-safe zip-lock bag or plastic container, in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for several months.

By the way, the world's largest pumpkin pie, a 2020-pound behemoth baked in New Bremen, Ohio, in 2006, contained 900 pounds of canned pumpkin.

Those folks must have some pantry!

Pumpkin pie

A traditional favorite, best served slightly warm with fresh whipped cream. Pillsbury pie crust works just fine here, or make your favorite graham cracker crust. Serves 8.

Ingredients

Basic pastry for single-crust pie, partially baked*
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp mace
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp molasses
1-1/4 cup evaporated milk
3 large eggs (room temperature)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, blend the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, mace and salt (a wire whisk comes in handy for this). In a separate bowl, combine molasses, evaporated milk and eggs. Pour egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and whisk thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the partially baked pie crust, and place on middle rack of the oven. Bake for 1 hour, until the top of the pie looks shiny and a knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean. (If the crust is browning too fast, cover with an aluminum foil "collar.€") Let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature; refrigerate leftovers.

*To partially bake (also called "blind baking") a pie crust: Press the crust into a 9-inch pie plate, and decorate or crimp the edges. There are several ways to keep the crust from shrinking or rising up while it bakes: either line the crust with aluminum foil, and fill with rice or dry beans; or line with foil, and invert the pie crust over another pie plate of the same size (the crust bakes as a "sandwich" between the two pie plates). Bake in a 375°F preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden color.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

i love canned pumpkin. always one for convenience, i've never actually cooked a pumpkin. must try pumpkin pie, so far all i've made is pumpkin french toast.

I am so maleable. Now I crave pumpkin.

Luckily, I keep a can or two of this stuff in my cupboard year round. I get my first cravings in mid-September and it just keeps on until spring.

Sounds strange, but my favourite use for canned pumpkin is pumpkin oatmeal: equal parts rolled oats, milk or soy milk, and pumpkin brought to a boil and simmered - then add pumpkin pie spice (mine has allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, star anise) and sweetener (brown sugar or maple syrup) to taste.

Admittedly, it sounds strange, but it's like pumpkin pie custard for breakfast - delicious hot or cold, and big batches keep well in the fridge!

Stefanie, pumpkin French toast sounds amazing. Do you mix pumpkin in with the egg batter?

Mimi, what do you make with pumpkin when you crave it? Pie? Soup? Cupcakes? I need to start using pumpkin more often, as it's very healthy.

Maria, pumpkin oatmeal actually sounds delicious -- I've never tried anything like it. Thanks for the idea!

People need to read labels carefully too. The Libby brand of canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling are very similar.

Also, the pumpkins you carve jack-o-lanterns from are not the same pumpkins you cook with.

I love pumpkin pies and cheesecake but have never made them. This just reminded me to get this on my todo list.

Lydia,

I've always wanted to try pumpkin pie - I've seen it so many times in movies and series!

Tom, you are right, on both points. I think the labels are deliberately misleading, don't you?

Veron, I tried pumpkin cheesecake once, but I'm not a big cheesecake fan. If you find a good recipe, please let me know.

Patricia, do try it, if you can find canned pumpkin in your market.

I've really grown to appreciate how versitle canned pumpkin can be!

Something different: bottled, diced, marinated pumpkin - it was in the market near me, a product from Poland (we've had lots of Polish immigrants in the area lately, and the market has taken to carrying lots of food from there - most of it unfortunately with labels only in Polish, so sometimes you have to experiment a bit).

Anyway, it is very good: the ingredients (this one has English on it) are mostly just pumpkin, vinegar, sugar; it's sort of a sweet marinated version - texture a bit softer than watermelon pickle (it's clearly the flesh, not the rind). Something you could probably make yourself...

Jeff, I agree. I need to learn to use it more -- so I guess I need to learn to bake!

Paul, I'm intrigued. Pumpkin pickles? The vinegar definitely takes it in a different direction. I have a friend who speaks Polish and frequents Boston's couple of Polish markets; I'll ask him if he's seen this, and if he knows how to cook with it. Please let us know what you end up doing with it, and thanks for sharing your market discovery.

Ha! I just ate it all... quite good, as I said. On the side with some millet (cooked with veg bouillon cubes and the usual green herbs) and meatballs.

Sorry, some more details: The pumpkin is named 'Dynia w occie'. The English ingredients are: pumpkin, water, vinegar, sugar, natural spices - drat, the spices are the part you, and I, want to know about most, aren't they? There's probably some cinnamon I think, or is it nutmeg?...

It's good. See if you friend can find you some, you can probably do a much better job than me at identifying the spices.

Canned pumpkin is soooo convenient. I tried this year to use real pumpkin and it was such a hassle. Never again!

Hey thanks for linking to me! I really like the amount of information you give to preface a recipe.

Susan, I love to introduce readers to wonderful recipes I find on blogs like yours!

Will condensed milk work too?

Lucy, condensed milk and evaporated milk aren't the same, so it's best not to substitute.

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