Pumpkin pie isn’t just my husband’s favorite pie. It’s his favorite food. My dad’s too. Both men live for Thanksgiving when they get the first pumpkin pies of the season. The first time I made pumpkin pie for my husband he declared it to be the best pie he’d ever eaten.
When I started baking, I didn’t have to search for the best pumpkin pie recipe. I had grown up with it. My mother was already making the best pie ever so all I had to do was follow her lead and her recipe. Where did she get her foolproof recipe? Right off the back of the Libby’s Pumpkin can. We still use the old Libby pumpkin can recipe. We make just one change. It is what makes this pie extra special.
Using a recipe off the back of a box or a can seems so…ordinary. Some people just refuse to believe that a “name brand” recipe could be any good when there are so many new and improved versions to be found in scores of cookbooks written by famous chefs. But the way I see it, those back of the can or box recipes are likely to be some of the best.
It’s in the best interest of a company like Nestle who makes Libby Pumpkin to print the best recipe they can find onto their product labels. They have the resources and the test kitchens to try many, many versions before they decide which one to make their own. They are going to choose the recipe that, after much trial and error, they believe to be the best. In the case of Libby Pumpkin, the recipe on the back of their can is a much-loved classic. It’s been printed on their labels since 1950. Unlike store-bought pies that are dense and often bland, the Libby recipe is full flavored with a generous blend of spices that include cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. It is the recipe that my mother found when she was first married. And with one small change, she made it her own. I’ve never tasted a pumpkin pie that is any better.
The change my mother made to the recipe wasn’t done in an effort to “improve” the pie. It was merely a matter of economy. In those early years our family was on a tight budget and my mother did everything she could to save a penny. I’m sure the first time she tried it she was probably nervous that the pie wouldn’t turn out. What she did, however, made the pie so much lighter and creamier that neither she nor I have ever given up our “family trick.”
I’ve posted the Libby recipe below the way it is printed on the can. It is quite easy to make. There’s no need to get out the electric mixer. All you need is a single bowl and a spoon. Mix the sugar, salt, and spices into the pumpkin, blending them in well. Then mix in the beaten eggs. Last of all stir in ONE can of evaporated milk.
Then, (and this is where my mother saved her couple of cents) instead of adding the second can of milk that is called for in the recipe, we fill the empty milk can with milk straight from the carton in the fridge– whatever we happen to have on hand, be it whole, 2% or most often in my case, 1%. It makes the pie creamier and less dense but it still sets up well. Try it. See if you don’t love the results!
LIBBY’S FAMOUS PUMPKIN PIE RECIPE FOR 2 PIES
1 (29 oz.) can Libby’s solid pack pumpkin (not easy pumpkin pie mix)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves 4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 (12 oz.) cans Nestle Carnation Brand evaporated milk 2 (9″) unbaked homemade pie shells with high fluted edge
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine filling ingredients in order given; divide evenly into pie shells. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center of each pie comes out clean. Cool; garnish, if desired, with whipped topping. Yield: 2 (9″) pies.If regular 9″ frozen pie shells are substituted, recipe fills 4 (bake in 2 batches). Slightly thaw pie shells while combining other ingredients. Preheat cookie sheet while preheating oven to 375 degrees. Bake 2 pies on cookie sheet 45 minutes or until pies test done as directed above. Repeat with remaining 2 pies.Embed from Getty Images