In order to be ready by Thanksgiving with the very best pie, we have to get to work now. In part 1, I tested fresh pumpkin against canned pumpkin. I used a Long Island cheese pumpkin, supposedly one of the best eating.
To make my own puree, I used this recipe from Gourmet magazine. It takes 10 1/2 hours - not for cooking but for draining.
After baking and running through the food processor, it needs to drain in a cheesecloth lined strainer for 8 hours or overnight. I think about a cup of water drained out of this puree.
I made the recipes exactly the same and even rinsed out the can and refilled it with my own so as to have the exact same amount. The recipe calls for 15 minutes at a higher temperature and then 40 minutes at a lower one. I used two ovens and moved the pies to the other oven after 15 minutes.
The results of eight tasters was 4 to 4. No one disliked either pie, but preferred one over the other for different reasons. Several found the canned pumpkin sweeter than the fresh. Everyone could taste the difference in the texture. The fresh pumpkin was thicker than the canned and made a denser pie. Some liked it, some didn't.
Bottom line - it doesn't seem to matter if you use canned or fresh. The canned is a more consistent product and a quarter of the cost of fresh. But Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and if you want to make it from scratch, that's OK too. Just make sure to use an eating pumpkin such as a white, sugar, Australian blue, fairy tale or Cinderella and not one meant for the jack-o-lantern trade.
In part 2, we'll start testing specific recipes.