Canned pumpkin (Recipe: pumpkin pie)
On the downside, you can't carve a canned pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.