Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without a nice piece of pumpkin pie. It’s a solid American tradition, even though pumpkin pie wasn’t officially a part of the original Thanksgiving celebration. Pumpkin pie filling cooked in a rolled out, wheat-flour pie crust surfaced around the turn of the 19th century. Before then, most cooks baked the custard inside the pumpkin, using the pumpkin for the crust.
How to Make Mashed Pumpkin for Holiday Pies
The best pumpkin pie filling is not made from the large pumpkins sold to carve into jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween. That type of pumpkin tends to have light-colored, watery flesh. While a large pumpkin can be doctored with extra sweeteners, spices, and flavorings, the best pumpkins for a holiday pie are small with a flavorful orange interior. Pie pumpkins (sometimes called sweet pumpkins) are not always easy to find unless grown in a home garden.
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- Place small whole pumpkins (cut large pumpkins into wedges), stem up, in a large roasting pan.
- Fill the pan with about 3 or 4-inches of water.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil; bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, until they easily pierce with a fork.
- Remove foil, and allow pumpkins or pumpkin pieces to cool to the touch.
- Remove seeds, strings, and peel.
- Mash the flesh with a potato masher, or whip with an electric mixer or food processor, until smooth.
Homemade mashed pumpkin can be easily frozen for up to 6 months. However, canning is not recommended. While the USDA did have directions at one time, those directions were withdrawn in 1994 and are now considered out of date. Pumpkin and other winter squashes are low-acid foods and therefore support the growth of bacteria. Due to the inconsistency between different batches of mashed pumpkin (the thickness, acidity, and water content) calculating a safe processing time is not possible.
Canned Pumpkin for Pumpkin Pie Filling is Available Year Round
Libby’s pumpkin hit the market in 1929, giving the busy holiday cook a head start, and making canned pumpkin available year round. However, holiday tradition is firmly set in the USA. While pumpkin pie filling is easy to make, and most individuals look forward to and love their Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, it’s clearly associated with holiday baking.
Most canned pumpkin is sold during the holiday season. Year-round availability, convenience, and safety haven’t changed that tendency. While pumpkin is a versatile, nutritious, high-fiber botanical fruit, it is generally only thought of as an ingredient for a holiday dessert or sweet bread.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie filling was originally made with heavy or light cream. When evaporated milk became available, most pumpkin pie recipes switched to using canned milk instead. Pumpkin pie should be baked in a pre-baked pie crust to avoid sogginess. The crust can be a pre-made or homemade traditional pie crust, a traditional gluten-free pie crust, a graham-cracker pie crust, an almond-flour pie crust, or a pecan-flour pie crust.
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1-1/2 cups pumpkin (15oz can)
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- Single, deep-dish pie crust, pre-baked
- Prepare a deep-dish pie crust, and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, pumpkin, molasses, vanilla, and salt; blend well.
- In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and spices. If using large, jack-o’-lantern type home-mashed pumpkin, also add a tablespoon of cornstarch; stir into pumpkin mixture.
- Pour into pie crust. Bake 450 degrees for 15 minutes to set the custard, then lower heat to 350 and continue baking for 45 to 50 minutes. Pie is done if the filling jiggles just a little when shaken gently. It shouldn’t be completely firm.
- Cool on a rack.
For a gluten free diet: Use Briar Rabbit or Grandma’s original molasses; and a traditional gluten-free pie crust, an almond-flour pie crust, or a pecan-flour pie crust. To make a pecan-flour pie crust, simply substitute home-ground pecans for the almonds in the almond-flour pie crust recipe.
For a dairy free diet: Substitute coconut milk for evaporated milk; and use any type of pie crust that is dairy free.
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