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Oct 7, 2011 04:39 PM

Pumpkin Pie for Canadian Thanksgiving but there is no tinned pumpkin. Are there any good substitutions?

I've searched the entire island where I live and there isn't a tin of pumpkin to be had anywhere - not even pumpkin pie filling. There is a local pumpkin which is what I've used in the past but nobody has any for sale right now. So out of desperation, I did buy two boxes of frozen "winter squash" and I'm wondering if I can make a reasonable copy of pumpkin pie. Searched the board for any variation of pumpkin filling substitutions but didn't find anything. If I defrost should I treat it just like a tin of pumpkin? Should I strain some of the liquid out? Follow a traditional pumpkin pie recipe? I don't make many pumpkin pies because when it is just us we have something else for dessert on Thanksgiving.

If anyone else has tried this or anyone has suggestions to make this work I would be most grateful. There is also an apple pie so it isn't going to be the only dessert for the evening but I'd still like to present both pies. Thanks.

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  1. I've never used winter squash, other than pumpkin, in a pie, but you can, yes.

    If I were you, I would cook it according to package direction, drain it, puree it, and proceed with whatever recipe you settle on. You have a bit of time to do a test pie. If you don't like it, keep in mind that many say that sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie taste very, very similar.

    Good luck!

    5 Replies
    1. re: onceadaylily

      Thanks for those informative links - I just didn't want to be making a huge mistake on a busy cooking day. Our dinner is tomorrow night. When I lived in Canada I always baked a pie pumpkin but down here it has been tins until I discovered local pumpkin. I'm not sure what happened this year that neither are available but I'm sure they will get at least the tinned pumpkin in for American Thanksgiving so I may buy one just to keep one hand. I think I'm going to wing it and see how it goes - the suggestions in the article look good.

      1. re: Island Girl

        Pumpkin crops last year were very bad, and that may still be affecting availability with it being early-ish in the season. If you're very worried about the moisture in the pumpkin, you could put it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer after the puree, and see if you can wick away some of the moisture. You want that squash to be thick after the puree, and any excess water could break the custard. Trust your eyes, and enjoy your holiday!

        1. re: onceadaylily

          Thanks, I think I will strain it as my concern is about the filling being too runny.

          1. re: Island Girl

            You can tie the cheesecloth into a bundle, and hang it on a wooden spoon across a deep bowl for faster straining. I always forget that Thanksgiving there comes so much earlier, and I know you must be pressed for time.

          2. re: onceadaylily

            There might be a shortage of canned pumpkin in the OP's vicinity, but I don't believe there is still a shortage anywhere in he U.S. I have actually checked and have seen it in all the stores.

      2. What about sweet potatoes/Yams?

        2 Replies
        1. re: acgold7

          Thanks - I didn't realise that sweet potatoes or yams were a good substitute for pumpkin but I will remember for the next time. If I hadn't bought the frozen winter squash I'd go and get some fresh sweet potatoes but if I don't use those boxes this weekend I'm sure they will still be in my freezer next year!

          1. re: acgold7

            My parents always subbed yams for the pumpkin when I was growing up and I still do it, every time I make a pumpkin pie. I actually prefer the taste of yams-- richer and creamier than pumpkin. I still call it "pumpkin pie" though. Go figure.

          2. Yes, you can use squash, you might want to let it sit a bit after you puree it so the pulp settles and the water separates, or pass through a strainer with a coffee filter. My dad has reactions to pumpkin so my mom makes it with squash.

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                "many say that sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie taste very, very similar."

                not just hearsay - very similar, needs more sugar and more of the traditional spicing, but very similar (bit stringier though)

                1. re: hill food

                  I have found that the strings collects on the beaters of my kitchenaid mixer - pretty effectively removing them from the mix. Of course putting the mess through a food processor will keep the fiber in there. Sweet potato and pumpkin pie are similar but different - I actually like the sweet potato a bit better.

                  Like folks have said, the squash needs to be drained - it could be that baking it will reduce and concentrate it, it but generally once pumpkin/squash is pureed quite a bit more water will come out. Its easy enough to drain it in a colander lined with a paper towel untl it forms sort of a cohesive body- give it time.

              2. I always make squash pie. We are originially from Maine and that is very traditional. I defrost the boxes open one corner and drain the excess liquid then I put it on a sheet pan and smoosh it down ( technical term) and put in an oven for 10 -15 min about 350F . It makes it less watery and intensifies the flavor then once they cool a bit proceed with your recipe. Enjoy

                3 Replies
                1. re: juli5122

                  That makes LOTS of sense! Terrific idea!

                  1. re: wyogal

                    Have also put squash or fresh cooked pumpkin puree with a bit of sugar into a saucepan and cooked it down until it is drier, denser, darker, and a little caramelized. Without that step, I find it is too bland and watery.

                    1. re: zamorski

                      Incidental note on buying canned pumpkin: I am not sure if this is one of those Canadian things, but most of the canned pumpkin puree I see up here (labelled clearly as such) is actually a mix of pumpkin and squash (if you read the ingredients), hence not as full-flavoured or dense. I have to really hunt to find the "real" stuff.