Natalie DeWitt admits to using her cooking to win friends and influence people. "When people know that you cook well, they want to get you know you better."
She won a bunch of new friends at her recent pumpkin pie tasting event on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She brought 6 pies that included 6 unique pumpkin filling and 4 unique crusts to determine once and for all which is the best pumpkin pie recipe.
A Good Excuse To Experiment
"It seems like it's an average recipe in that everyone has their own but they all tend to taste the same," she says. She hypothesized that much of the difference in the pies would come from the crusts. For an extra personal challenge, she rendered her own lard to use in one of the crusts. This was a good excuse to use up the lard she'd had in her freezer for a while but had no idea what do to with it. "My house smelled like breakfast, like you were cooking bacon but 20 times more intense than that."
This project also gave her the excuse to make her own pumpkin purée from sugar pumpkins she bought at the farmers market. It's just like breaking down any vegetable, she says. "You chop off the top, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, put it on a cookie sheet with a little bit of water. Let it roast for an hour, and that's it!"
DeWitt hopes that the hard work she put into rendering the lard and roasting the pumpkin for one of the pies will result in the tasters liking that pie the best.
More: Read more about Natalie DeWitt's kitchen experiments on her blog.
A: Crust and filling both made from a recipe from an old-fashioned cookbook
B: Crust with Spectrum Organic All-Vegetable Oil instead of Crisco, filling made from a recipe off the side of the pumpkin can
C: Vegan pie, crust and filling both made from a recipe in Joy of Vegan Baking
D: Store-bought Sarah Lee pie
E: Store-bought crust, filling made from a recipe off the side of the pumpkin can
F: Crust with local lard, filling made from local pumpkins using Mrs. Sigg's Fresh Pumpkin Pie recipe
The Votes Are Tallied
The pie that started the most conversations was the vegan pumpkin pie (C). From the decorative pecans to the crumby crust, it had most tasters confused. "The vegan one kind of taste like grass, but not in a bad way," one taster admitted. Another taster, who was only sampling the various crusts raved that it should not compete against the rest because it was by far the best of the bunch.
Sitting with small slivers of the vegan pie (C) and the local pie (F) on her plate was a first-time pumpkin pie taster. She said that there are very few pumpkins in her country of Taiwan. What attracted her to the vegan pie initially was the pecans, but she joined her fellow taster in saying that the crust was fantastic.
But as DeWitt hoped, her local pie (F) was voted the favorite pie as a whole. "I think I only tried F because it looked bigger than the other ones," one taster commented, but soon word spread that this was the pie to try. Many folks described it as a standard pumpkin pie, but with 5 other "standard" pies also on display, surely there was something special that pushed this pie to the top of the class.