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Pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin

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It was a project three years in the making. (I had a son and ran out of time last year). Yesterday I took a baking pumpkin and did a side-by-side test with fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin in a pie-off.

The recipes were identical and I used store-bought crust to take away any potential advantages. The recipe was off the back of the Libby pumpkin. No reason to get fancy here.

Then I had my family taste it and I brought it into work today to have some co-workers taste it.

The result? Split. My family overwhelmingly liked the fresh pumpkin. At work they were split down the middle. My guess is because people are used to the canned taste. My preference is fresh. It had a much richer, complex flavor that I found to be far superior. The taste evoked the things pumpkin pie should--freshness, spice, and generally just that taste of fall. By comparison the canned pumpkin was flat and flavorless.

I can't post a pic, but the fresh was a lighter yellow color, which I found more appealing as well. It's thinner because one pumpkin only gave me a cup of pumpkin instead of the two needed for the recipe.

All in all, totally worth it. Honestly the hardest part was splitting it in half. That's discussed more here:

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

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Good for you! I've never been able to figure out why people think it's like so obsessively over the top to use a fresh pumpkin for pumpkin pie. It IS better and I just love the whole idea of starting with a pumpkin. And once you've split the pumpkin, as you have discovered, it's not actually a lot of work. Suggestion for future pumpkin cookery: bake several pumpkins at once, puree the pulp and freeze in 1-cup containers. I like to let the pulp drain for a while in a coffee filter so that it's thicker too. Once you've made it, you'll always have real pumpkin around when you want to bake something.

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I don't boil my pumpkin anymore. I now bake mine in a low-temperature oven, about 275 degrees. I cut it into halves or quarters, depending on size, clean the all the strings and seeds out, rub some canola oil on my palms, then rub it on the flesh. Then I put it in the oven, open side up, and bake it until it collapses on itself.

It bakes out the water without burning the outside, making for a more concentrated pumpkin flavor. I guess you'd call it more of a roasting than a baking, since the oil is involved, but no matter what I call it, my family likes it a whole lot more.

I do the same thing with sweet potatoes when I make those pies, too.

Theresa :smile:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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I think with a good sugar pumpkin, fresh just tastes much better. But it can hard to equal the texture of the canned pumpkin. Part of the issue is excess moisture, and part is the all the fibers.

Moisture you can take care of by baking in the oven, like Theresa said. I go hotter than she does, but I don't mind it getting a little toasted. The fiber requires diligent pureeing and straining. If you have a vita prep, you're set. Easy peasy. I don't, so I blast it in a food processor (the blades seem to cut the fibers better than the blades in my commercial blender). and run it though the fine disk of a food mill. If you're a fanatic, you could try forcing it through a chinois.

I also let the puree sit in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge to let excess water drip out.

Notes from the underbelly

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I always use fresh pumpkin. I just get two little pie pumpkins, jab a bunch of holes in them and lay them on a stack of paper towls in the microwave. Nuke until they start to collapse. Split open and remove the "guts". Scrape out the flesh and wizz in food processor. I've even just mashed with a potato masher. Put in a strainer and let some of the moisture drain out in the sink. Refrigerate. I've never found stringiness to be a problem. I think pie made with fresh pumpkin is SO much better than with the canned.

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I just did this a couple weeks ago. To me, it was almost a different animal than pumpkin pie from canned. It was delicious, but I'm not sure which I prefer. I have 3c in the freezer I'm saving for thanksgiving, but people at "work" have requested I make one for a potluck before then so I may get to do it again.

I roasted mine at 375 until soft w/o seasoning or oil, about 1.5 hours, and pureed in a food processor (I put the seeds & guts in a pot with a bit of water to make quasi pumpkin stock to use as a pureeing liquid, which is how I make butternut squash puree for soup). Didn't think to reduce or dry via straining. Texture was fine, not watery or anything.

if I did it again, I'd consider whizzing the pie filling in a blender then straining through a chinois. I usually do that with my squash soup, but the base puree is too thick for my blender, and straight from the food processor won't force through the chinois. I didn't really notice that the filling was anything but smooth, but I know from the soup that it's the different between smooth and velvet. I'd also probably add a bit of molasses, becuase it was a very light color. I've done the molasses thing before and love it, but I was trying a new recipe and wanted it unaltered (from Tartine).

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Your results are not surprising. I live about 25 miles from the Pumpkin Capital of the US and they grow many varieties of pumpkins. The Libby's pumpkin (it's tan in color) has an amazing volume of pulp for the pumpkin size and almost no seeds. I participated in a tasting a few years ago and that Libby's pumpkin is almost flavorless compared to the heirloom varieties.

Your pie quality will take an extra large step up when you switch to the better varieties. The best is the Fairytale which is large with big lobes and highly uneven color ranging from gray/green to almost orange. This makes a wonderful pie.

Another flavor boosting idea comes when you run a really fresh pumpkin through a juicer. Taste the juice and the pulp; surprisingly the pulp has almost no flavor and the juice will be sweet. Reduce the juice by less than half and you have a wonderful creme brulee/creme caramel flavor base. You can also use this to jack the flavor of your pie. You may also reduce it to make syrup; the temp should get to 120 degrees.

Come out to central Illinois for great pumpkins.


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I'm in Chicago, and this was an unnamed variety of pie pumpkin from a farmer at the Green City Market. 2 of them made enough puree for 2 servings of soup and 2 pies, total.

Trader Joe's has those fairytale pumpkins you mention, I may grab one of those but I figured farmers market pumpkins would be better.

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To me, it was almost a different animal than pumpkin pie from canned

I think that it is. A different gourd anyhow. My understanding is that canned pumpkins are made with those green, pumpkin-like squashes that are cheaper and easier to grow than traditional pie pumpkins.

Notes from the underbelly

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