The flavor we’ve been indoctrinated into believing is pumpkin…

Canned “pumpkin” or fresh? Which one really makes the best pie?

If you haven’t heard, prepare to be shocked. Shocked! Canned pumpkin is not (NOT!) pumpkin. Yes, it says pumpkin on the label. It even says, “100% Pure Pumpkin.”

And the ingredients list has one ingredient: pumpkin.

But it’s not pumpkin. The FDA says food companies can call it pumpkin. What’s in the can is actually a mixture of various other squashes. Maybe fresh pumpkin is too expensive. Maybe it doesn’t grow in large enough quantities. Maybe the texture and taste of fresh doesn’t translate well in the factory process.

It really doesn’t matter why. All that matters is that we’ve been lied to. And the pumpkin pie we grew up with isn’t pumpkin pie at all. And once you taste the difference, you will realize that there is a difference. A really BIG difference.

So, here’s what we did:

We bought two sugar pie pumpkins (those little ones made just for cooking), took off the stems, halved them lengthwise, and scraped out the seeds and stringy stuff. Then we placed them face down on a foil lined (and canola oil sprayed) baking sheet. We sprayed the skins with oil as well. We baked them in a 375° oven for an hour, until they were fork tender. We let them cool pretty much completely, then scooped out the flesh. This gave us more than enough for our pie test. We put it all into the Ninja bowl and pureed it.

Then we got to baking.

We made identical pies. The only difference was the pumpkin (or, in Libby’s case “pumpkin”).  We used Libby’s classic recipe and after I dumped the squash into a bowl, hubs rinsed out the can and used it to measure out his real pumpkin.

Here’s the difference:

Libby’s

Real pumpkin

The real pumpkin was yellow! There is no indication that Libby’s uses food coloring. It could be that they choose squash that yield orange flesh because it looks more like pumpkin…well, the outside of a pumpkin. The real pumpkin is also a tad more watery. You could use some cheesecloth to get rid of some of the water, but we didn’t.

Then we got to mixing in the ingredients, exactly the same for each pie. We used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, because that’s what we always use.

Libby’s ready for baking
Real pumpkin ready for baking

The real pumpkin pie took five minutes longer than the Libby’s, but not out of range for the Libby’s cooking instructions. Here’s what we got:

Real pumpkin on the left; Libby’s on the right

There was a clear and obvious difference between the look of the pies. Once they’d cooled, it was into the fridge with them! We eat our pumpkin pie (and squash pie) cold here in Florida.

The next day, ready with our Cool Whip, we dug in.

Libby’s on the left; real pumpkin on the right

So, how did they taste? Excellent!

The results:

Libby’s squash in the can was more dense and the texture not as smooth. And it had a distinct “taste” to it. Hubs read a blog about someone else’s taste test and this blogger said that once she tasted the difference, the weird flavor in the canned pie was so unappealing to her, she would never eat it again. And I would agree that side by side, the odd flavor of the Libby’s was apparent. We couldn’t figure out what that flavor was. Hubs called it “pumpkin” flavor. And, if you’ve grown up eating canned squash (Libby’s combination in particular) then you will associate this flavor with pumpkin.

But hubs kept insisting that this was some kind of pumpkin flavor added into the canned squash to make it taste like pumpkin. But that’s absurd! The real pumpkin pie didn’t have that taste. So whatever this flavor is, it’s not pumpkin.

We’ve decided to call the canned flavor…”the flavor we’ve been indoctrinated into believing is pumpkin.”

The fresh pumpkin made a lighter, silkier pie. Hubs said it had no flavor other than the spices we added in. I swore I could taste a light “squash” flavor. (Pumpkins are squashes, too, after all.) But after a time, I realized that this light squashy flavor was similar to milk. And there’s a full can of evaporated milk in each pie. So, hubs could very well be right. The flavor is all in the spices.

Overall, I much preferred the fresh pumpkin. Lighter, tastier, lacking that pungent so-called pumpkin flavor, and not that much more work to prepare for a really great result. And if I taste that canned flavor again, I’ll just be reminded of my indoctrination into the Fake Pumpkin Cult. I’ll be forever scarred. But I can live on. As long as there are sugar pie pumpkins to be had, I will go on.

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