Baking a Pumpkin Pie? Don’t Use Pumpkin

With everyone being partial to tradition around Thanksgiving, it’s understandable if you want to cook the whole Thanksgiving dinner yourself from scratch. There’s one item there that you should be especially careful about, however: It’s pumpkin pie. Many people begin by assuming that to make a success of this pie that’s made of pumpkin filling, they should make it with pumpkin. It seems obvious that they should. Unfortunately, taking that route isn’t likely to go well.

The problem is that when you cook pumpkin, it often ends up stringy and without sufficient ability to maintain shape. The effect can be akin to biting into a banana that’s been sitting out for too long — bland, watery, and with an unpalatable texture.

So should you not bake your own pumpkin pie?

Baking your own pumpkin pie is a great idea, of course. Unfortunately, using the fresh field pumpkin for it is not the way to go. Canned pumpkin filling works much better. It works better because there’s something about it that most people don’t know: it isn’t actually pumpkin. Instead, canned pumpkin filling is made from the Dickinson, otherwise known as squash. Dickinsons don’t even look round like carving pumpkins; instead, they are longish. Dickinsons are the best for eating pumpkins, because they aren’t pumpkins.

There have been lawsuits in this area, but ever since 1938, the FDA has not found a problem with the way makers of pumpkin filling describe the Dickinsonian contents of their cans as pumpkin.

The pumpkin of your imagination is fiction

When you think of pumpkin spice lattes and all the other wonderful pumpkin-flavored things in your life, you think of the round jack-o’-lantern pumpkin type that everyone uses on their product advertising. In reality, the taste has very little to do with the carving pumpkin. They either use the Dickinson, or they put in enough nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices to create a taste that has nothing to do with pumpkins. Not the best cooks, chefs and bakers of the world touch real harvested pumpkin when they need to make something good that calls for pumpkin. Not even pumpkin baking contests require that you use pumpkin.

If you’re planning on baking your own pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving

You don’t have to get canned “pumpkin” filling if you’d like to do everything from scratch. You just shouldn’t use actual pumpkin. Find a good Dickinson pumpkin at the produce section and start with that. If you can’t stand the thought that there could be no pumpkin in your pumpkin pie, you can mix a little real pumpkin in. But it should mostly be the Dickinson. It’ll make your job much easier, and it will give you outstanding results. Not to mention, everyone will believe that it’s pumpkin.

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