This Holiday Season Check Your Canned Pumpkin Before You Start Baking
Marilyn Caylor 10/31/2016
The end of the year brings colorful fall leaves, cinnamon spice, and mugs of hot apple cider. From Halloween through New Years, it also means there's a ton of edible goodies around every corner, and diets tend to go out the window, especially when delicious baked sweets are involved.
Many of us love to bake during the holiday season, but one popular ingredient may not be quite what it seems. Although pumpkins are harvested during the fall, only the most die-hard bakers will actually carve up a fresh one to turn into a pie.
Using the canned variety makes the job of making a fresh "from scratch" pie a lot easier to accomplish. In fact, canned pumpkin can be used for more than just baking. It's also great in yummy crockpot soups and pecan braids.
Unfortunately, tins of pureed pumpkin should come with a big warning on the label.
There's something nefarious afoot in the world of canned pumpkins, and you might not know that some brands are actually trying to pull a fast one on you! So, before you stock up on canned pumpkins, you need to know something about what you're buying.
It turns out that what you're buying isn't actually made from real pumpkins.
There's a pumpkin impersonator that's been getting away with a clever ruse for decades - and its name is squash!
Yes, many winter squash are in the same "fall harvest" family as pumpkins, but they're still not the real deal. That's like comparing chimps to humans - even though 99 percent of the DNA is the same, there's still a vast difference.
Yet, nowhere on the ingredient label does it indicate that the canned puree contains squash. Don't let the lovely picture of the orange pumpkin pictured on the front fool you!
How can some food manufacturer's lie to us? Or more importantly, how does the FDA let them get away with deceptive labeling practices?
Well, it turns out that another government agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is very lenient in its definition of "pumpkin." As long as they're in the same genus, it's all good!
"The canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden fleshed, firm shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins and squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming and reducing to a pulp."
Pureed pumpkin can be made out of Dickinson pumpkins, Golden Delicious squash, Connecticut or Kentucky field pumpkins, or Boston marrow squash.
If you ever thought canned pumpkin pie was mediocre compared to a pie made from homemade puree, you may have chalked it up to the difference between canned and fresh. However, the truth is probably closer to the fact that the canned stuff was never a pumpkin to begin with.
If you're fine with eating canned pumpkin and never noticed a difference in taste, then keep doing what you're doing. However, if you want to make sure you're getting the real thing, then you have a couple of options.
In this case, reading the ingredient label won't help. We already know the ingredients list is a lie. However, Libby's brand uses Dickinson pumpkins, which is a strain that the company actually developed themselves. So you can be sure it's 100% real pumpkin.
Otherwise, you can just make your own pumpkin puree. If you've never tried your hand at making puree from scratch, then you're in for a real treat! It's actually a lot easier than you may think.