Updated: Nov 16
For the month of November, I will be running a series on Tuesday titled “Right Off the Box”, which are recipes that I use for all of my holiday baking and making that comes right off the ingredients package. Because sometimes the best recipes are right under your nose.
Send my regards to the Queen Miss Libby. Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe is my go to recipe for our annual treat.
Pumpkin pie was not something I grew up with. We ate chess, pecan, chocolate, or lemon. These are all wonderful pies. However, I asked my mom why we didn’t eat pumpkin or sweet potato pies for the holidays and she replied, “Because they’re gross.”
But I disagreed. A kid in my class had brought in a slice of sweet potato pie from home and I was obsessed with it. I tried to bring up my pumpkin or sweet potato pie dreams when my grandmother – the family confectioner – was with us and it became a whole thing.
My mother said, “Can you believe she wants a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving?”
I became, what I felt at the time, reasonable defensive, “It’s on TV! Snoopy eats pumpkin pie!”
My grandmother went into full on big mama mode, “If that baby wants pumpkin pie, I can make a pumpkin pie.”
But my mother insisted that it would be wasteful because no one would eat it and in the end I wouldn’t eat it because I wouldn’t really like it either. “This is the yogurt thing all over again!”
The subject was dropped.
Until I became a grown up.
My family’s greatest fear was I would return from college with all these “new fangled” ideas. Both my parents repeatedly watched the movie Son in Law in both giggles and horror in whom I might bring home for Thanksgiving. As my first post-college Thanksgiving home approached, after I learned a love of cooking and baking in my own single-ladies kitchen, I warned my mother that I would be making pumpkin pie for dessert.
I had no intention to baking and hulling tiny pumpkins. I knew I was going to be working with canned pumpkin. I dug around in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I reviewed cookbooks in the library. I searched everywhere for the best canned pumpkin pie recipe, and in the end, funnily enough, everyone recommended Libby’s Pumpkin Pie recipe, including Martha Stewart.
Why is Libby’s the best canned pumpkin pie recipe?
Anyone who has walked past a Starbucks knows that the secret to the pumpkin pie is not the pumpkin, but it’s spice.
And anyone who has tried to make their own PSL at home knows that not all spice mixes are the same. Purchase a PSL premix or a Pumpkin Pie Mix that has been prespiced means you are allowing the manufacturer to be in charge of your own taste buds.
That doesn’t work for me.
I go with Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe on the back of the can because it has a reasonable amount of sugar for a pie – ¾ of a cup, and a modest amount of spice. Spice is meant to season, not to cloud.
Also, I have learned that clove needs to be in the spice mix, but only in small amounts because it has an oil in it which can numb the taste buds. Clove comes in to win, so use it sparingly.
Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe has ¼ a teaspoon (barely a sprinkle) of clove in their mix. You can always add less or more to your personal tastes. Just make sure you taste your pie batter before you put in the eggs.
One of my goals as a cook is to have recipes with simple – not specialized – ingredients. I break the rules at the holidays, but I didn’t like being in my kitchen at Thanksgiving and searching for an ingredient that I only use once a year for only one dish. Sadly for Pumpkin Pie, that ingredient is evaporated milk.
Evaporated milk is like unsweetened condensed milk. It’s milk that has been cooked down, essentially. It is there to add creaminess to the mix without making it watery.
So my cooking brain is like, I need dairy but not milk because it would make to pie runny. How can I do that with something I am already using at Thanksgiving?
The answer was whipped cream
I always have heavy whipping cream in the house for Thanksgiving to make whipped cream for the pie. So instead of using evaporated milk, I made a batch of whipped cream and folded it into the pumpkin mixture.
I actually love to fold in things. For the David and Moira Roses, folding is when you gently mix a lightweight ingredient into a heavier one with a gentle figure eight motion, cutting down the middle with the rubber spatula and turning one side gently into the middle, then repeating on the other. It’s the cooking equivalent of raking one of those tiny sand meditation gardens: soft, gentle, peaceful.
I also fussed over the crust.
In the beginning of the journey I used a frozen pie shell. These are good. I actually prefer a Pillbury Roll Out pie shell if you can get one during the hectic holiday season. It is so useful for so many recipes, my Kroger will sell out.
These last two years, I have been experimenting with a graham cracker or cookie crust. I will pulverize graham crackers – either with a food processor or with a ziplock bag and a rolling pin. Then mix with melted butter. Press into the pie shell and prebake. The cinnamon graham cracker crust was a huge hit with Behr, but less so with Hubs.
My first pie baking in my Maw’s kitchen with the help of my nephew who was endlessly interested in Punky Pie, was a success in my memory. I can’t remember who or if anyone ate it. I’m sure we flopped Cool Whip on top of it. It’s possible only me and my Pop ate it because he had the biggest sweet tooth of anyone in the house.
I think the victory was when I forced my mother to begrudgingly accept that pumpkin pie was not gross when I made it.
And with that, I am thankful for Libby’s.