Pumpkin is a fall baking staple, and while you can certainly make your own puree at home with just a little bit of effort, it is far easier to stock up on canned pumpkin for your baking projects. Canned pumpkin is a very consistent and reliable product to work with and can give you great results in your recipes. Most recipes that call for pumpkin are formulated to use canned puree, and because homemade versions can vary somewhat in flavor and texture, they can occasionally throw a recipe off if you’re not aware of that. I do like to make homemade puree when I have an especially good pumpkin to work with, but I always have some of the canned stuff in my pantry so that I am ready to bake pumpkin pie on a moment’s notice. There are several brands of canned pumpkin out there and, like most products, there is some variation in flavor that can really impact your finished products. A few seasons ago, Cook’s Illustrated did a taste test on several brands of canned pumpkin to see which brand baked into the best pumpkin pie.
They tested Farmer’s Market Organic Canned Pumpkin, Libby’s Canned Pumpkin and One-Pie Canned Pumpkin. Libby’s Canned Pumpkin and One-Pie Canned Pumpkin were both taste-tester favorites, even though they had slightly different flavors. One Pie had a slightly “sharper” pumpkin flavor, while Libby’s was “creamy” and had more sweetness to it. The test kitchen didn’t recommend Farmer’s Market Organic Canned Pumpkin, which testers said had an unpleasant “chalky,” “vegetal” flavor to it. I bet that I’m not the only one who was surprised at the results of the test (given that I keep both brands in my pantry on a regular basis)! The full review is online (available without subscription until the end of the month), if you want to read through the test before stocking up on pumpkin the next time you’re at the store.
The CI test kitchen also mentions – and it is worth mentioning again regardless of your brand preference – that it is important to check the labels carefully when you’re buying canned pumpkin to ensure that you don’t buy pre-sweetened, pre-spiced pumpkin pie filling when you’re in the market for plain canned pumpkin for your baking.