This post was originally published in November 2018 and was most recently updated in November 2023.
Culinary truths my mom taught me:
1) The best part of a loaf of bread is the crusty end. My mom refers to it as the "gunta", a term she picked up from her Finnish-American grandmother—I think it's a rough phonetic approximation of the Finnish word for heel, kantapää. (Finnish Ks are pronounced like English Gs, so it's actually not as far off as it looks from the spelling).
2) Eating raw dough is an essential part of the cookie baking process.
3) The only brand of canned pumpkin to use in pies is Festal.
Festal Brand Golden Pie Pumpkin is specific to the Midwest. According to Minnesota Public Radio, it was produced for decades by the Owatonna Canning Company in southern Minnesota. The brand was sold to Seneca Foods in 2003, and over the past several years it has become somewhat difficult to track down, especially in the Twin Cities metro area. Whenever my mom, my sister, or I come across some, we buy a bunch to stockpile it—currently, I have six cans purchased in 2023 that will expire in December 2026.
What sets Festal pumpkin apart from the competition is the texture—it's drier, with a slightly crumbly consistency. When you dump it out, it retains the shape of the can. Libby's and store brands are wetter, with a smooth, pureed texture. Those brands are fine for pumpkin bread or muffins, but they just don't work for pie. A Festal pumpkin pie will be pleasantly firm and silky; other brands bake up into pumpkin pies that are too mushy for my taste.
I don't know what I'll do if Festal ever disappears completely. Forswearing pumpkin pie isn't out of the question. Without Festal, it just won't be the same.
In the meantime, I'm on pumpkin pie number two of three this year in a bid to bake up my "use by 12/31/2018" Festal pumpkin. I keep things simple and use the Festal recipe printed on the back of the can, with one tweak: I've started using half brown sugar and half granulated sugar for a richer depth of flavor. The original Festal recipe offers the option of either milk or canned evaporated milk; I don't know that it makes much of a difference, but I always use low-fat evaporated milk.
For crust, I use my mom's recipe, the golden standard against which I judge all pie crust (it's included in this recipe for maple walnut cranberry pie). Feel free to substitute your crust recipe of choice. Pie crust is very personal sort of thing.
Adapted from Marian Biersdorf's Festal recipe
- 9-inch unbaked pie crust
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- (15-ounce) can Festal Golden Pie Pumpkin
- 1 cup low-fat evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat eggs in large bowl. Add sugars, cinnamon, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger and mix until smooth. Add pumpkin and mix until incorporated. Add milk and mix until smooth.
Pour pumpkin mixture into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool pie on wire rack and store tightly covered in refrigerator. Serve chilled.
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