I have recently read news reports indicating that a wet, cold pumpkin-growing season last year in the Midwest has led to a shortage of canned pumpkin for the upcoming holiday season. I didn’t think much of it until I visited my local mom ‘n pop grocery store today and found a bare shelf where the canned pumpkin usually resides. “The pumpkin crop is at a severe low with regards to quantity,” stated a badly photocopied letter taped to the shelf. It seems the store is completely out of this Thanksgiving staple, with no further supplier deliveries on the horizon.
I then called Safeway, and was cheerily informed that “we have oodles of cans on the shelf.” The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op also had plenty on hand. “I don’t know,” the clerk responded dubiously when I told her about the shortage, “I haven’t heard anything.”
Shortage or not, there’s a fun alternative to canned pumpkin that you might consider: homemade squash puree. If you want to jazz up your annual Thanksgiving pie, try using the puree of butternut, delicata or kabocha squash (I often experiment with a combination of all three) for your “pumpkin” pie filling. If you do want to stick with pumpkin, however, make sure to select a small sugar pumpkin – the big jack-o’-lantern variety won’t give good results.
To make your own puree, split the squash of your choice in half and roast (with the skin on) in the oven at 375 degrees until the flesh is easily pierced with a knife. Cool the squash, scoop the flesh out of the shell with a spoon, and mash/puree the flesh (if you have a food processor, use it – the resultant puree will be smoother). Then incorporate your puree into your favorite recipe. It’s as easy as…pie.