Some of you might know, while others of you might not have a clue until you’re ready to bake your Pumpkin Pie (probably the evening before Thanksgiving) that Libby’s changed their pumpkin pie recipe (yes, the one from the back of the can) this fall (2019.) It’s the first time there has been a change since this pie, Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie, was put on the can in 1950.
Yanno, I haven’t made this pie in decades myself, but I found myself mourning the Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie, the old back of the can pumpkin pie recipe. See, it’s the pie of my childhood. The pie my Mom made and the first pie she taught me to make on my own. And it’s the pie I made for years until I settled on my current fave, Pam Anderson’s Silky Pumpkin Pie.
About Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie:
And just like my childhood home, which I think should be there forever even though I hadn’t stepped foot in it for decades (and it was a behemoth of a stripped-down Victorian, torn down to make way for a tidy ranch), I think this pie should be on the can forever. After all, it’s been almost 70 years!
It’s like a bit of Americana lost, though now with the internet, I guess nothing is ever really lost and you can find this recipe all over the place. Including, right now, right here!
There’s no doubt that Libby’s back of the can, or as they call it, Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie is a classic. In honor of the change, I thought it would be fun (admittedly my idea of “fun” might be different than most peoples, lol!) to make both pies. This one and the new one, which is called Libby’s “New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie.” I usually make two pies anyway, so why not make one of each (they’re both super easy) and compare them?
The Differences Between Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie & Libby’s New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie:
The two pies are pretty close and both super easy. There are three differences in the ingredients which make the New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie a little sweeter, richer and smoother with the teensiest bit of more spice (the cloves) than the Famous Pumpkin Pie. There are two minor changes in the mixing/baking instructions.
- The New Fashioned Pie has 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves, a quarter of a teaspoon more than the Famous Pumpkin Pie. In the final baked pies, the New Fashioned Pumpkin pie was a teensy bit darker (especially near the crust) and I could taste the additional clove.
- The New Fashioned pie uses 1 cup of evaporated milk and 1 can of condensed milk. The Famous Pie uses 1 can of evaporated milk and 3/4’s of a cup of sugar. That means the new pie has more milk (even though there is less evaporated milk) and has more sugar since the condensed milk has 1 cup of sugar. That made the new pie taste sweeter with what I think is a better, denser, silkier more custardy “mouthfeel.”
- The New Fashioned Pie instructs to mix the spices in a small bowl, then add the eggs to a larger and then dump everything together into that bowl. The Famous Pumpkin Pie adds ingredients one at a time, mixing after each, first mixing the sugar and spices together. Mixing the spices with the sugar minimizes the possibility they will “clump” and not get thoroughly mixed. With no granulated sugar in the New Fashioned Pie, mix thoroughly. The denser ingredients in the new pie make it less prone to getting small bubbles that can form on the top.
- The New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie instructions call to bake less time: 15 minutes at 450 degrees F. then 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. The Famous Pumpkin Pie bakes at the same temperature and for the same initial 15 minutes, but instructions say to bake at the lower temperature for 40 to 50 minutes. Both of my pies were done, baked together in the same oven at 55 minutes.
FYI: The Pam Anderson Silky Pumpkin Pie I mentioned earlier uses that same combo of evaporated & condensed milk as the New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie does, although the Anderson Pie has two additional egg yolks. My oven temperature is perfectly calibrated, accurate, and I use a GE Spectra gas oven. My pumpkin pies have always taken longer to bake than the can says and this has been true when baked in my oven or baked at someone else’s home.
The Good & the Bad of Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie:
The Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie is definitely the classic flavor we have all come to love. It’s probably the pie that most people have made for close to 70 years, although some people do tinker and change things up and of course, we’re talking about the filling, not the crust. This is the pie that everyone says, “great pie” as they eat it.
The truth is, this means that almost everyone’s pie is exactly the same unless there has been some tinkering or a disaster in the making of it. This pie is easy and pretty much foolproof, but the directions that were on the can and are at Libby’s site are minimal, vague and in one instance, not quite correct. A less experienced baker might have some issues without additional guidance but see “Making Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie” below.
Now don’t get me wrong, because this is a perfectly good pie, beloved by millions, but there are some issues. As a nation, I think most of us have taken the flaws in this “back of the can” pie in stride and might not even notice them, thinking, “this is how pumpkin pie is.” Some of these flaws are why some people don’t (or think they don’t) like pumpkin pie. A few of these issues are minimized in the New Fashioned Pie.
- Let’s start with the mouthfeel. The texture, how the pie rolls across the tongue. The Famous Pumpkin Pie isn’t perfectly smooth; it has a kind of a fluffy-ness about it. It doesn’t feel as “custardy” as some pumpkin pies. I think this recipe, when compared to sweet potato pie is why some claim Sweet Potato Pie is “smoother.”
- The crust, made as directed, can slump down, is never crispy and flaky and is slightly wet, a little gummy and “slick” under the pie. You literally can slide the baked pie filling off the crust cleanly with a swipe of the fork. I know; I’ve done this since I was a kid, thinking I didn’t like pie crust (at least until I had other pies and experienced what pie crust should be like.)
- The filling pulls away from the crust as it bakes and more as it cools. That means sometimes as the pie is served, on some servings, especially the first, the back edge of the pie crust can fall away from the pie. Sometimes it doesn’t; it’s a crap-shoot.
- The pie weeps; the top gets wet, shiny and slick, and it weeps both as it’s cooled at room temperature and it weeps even more if refrigerated. And it weeps when not covered, so this moisture is not just all trapped condensation.
My guess is that most of us are used to these things and assume all pumpkin pies are exactly the same because this is “the pie” most people have every year. Heck some of us might assume that this is how pumpkin pie is supposed to be and those of us who grew up on this pie might even miss these exact same things if they are served a different pumpkin pie.
For others, people who don’t like pumpkin pie, unless they’ve been turned off of pumpkin forever by these issues (it seems to be mainly a texture thing for them) will eat all kinds of pumpkiny things with the same pumpkiny spice flavors with no issue. And who knows? Maybe they’ll like the New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie more. Or you might want to see Our Favorite Thanksgiving Desserts for more pumpkin and other pies and other desserts.
Making Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie:
First of all, prepare your pie crust and preheat the oven.
This pie is absolutely simple to make and is made completely by hand. You’ll mix together the sugar with the salt and spices and set aside. Then add the eggs into a largish bowl, give them a whisk, add the pumpkin, then stir in the sugar/spice mix. Once incorporated, in goes the evaporated milk. Pour into the shell, put it in the oven and after 15 minutes, turn the temperature down.
Now here’s what they don’t tell you in the original recipe, probably because it doesn’t all fit on the back of the can, without getting overly complicated, and I did this with both pies:
- If you’re using a frozen pie shell, don’t thaw it. If you are using a prepared or homemade one, put it in the pie pan, crimp and then put it in the freezer as you mix the filling; even better, freeze it for 30 minutes. That simple change that will help the crust hold shape & help it bake flakier. Even better, but it adds to the difficulty, blind bake your crust: see Blind Baking a Pie Crust.
- To minimize bubbles stir the milk in very gently, adding a little at a time. Bubbles will cause flaws on the top of the pie. If possible let the filling sit for 15 to 30 minutes before pouring (maybe as the pie crust sits in the freezer). Any bubbles will diminish and the spices wake up; stir again gently before pouring.
- You need a pie shield. It’s not optional unless you want to try to lay strips of foil over the hot pie as the crust burns in the hot oven, all without touching & marring the liquidy hot filling. Buy one or make one ahead and have it ready before you need it. See my post on Blind Baking a Pie Crust. Check your pie about 25 to 30 minutes in and continue to check, preferably w/o opening the oven door. When the crust is golden brown, add the shield.
- The pie will puff up as it nears doneness but will settle as it cools. If you follow directions and bake until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean (that’s a vague instruction, isn’t it?) your pie might be overdone. Gently shake the pie; it shouldn’t jiggle and/or insert your knife 1/2 way between the center and edge. When done, it will come out wet, not clean as the directions state, but should have no custard filling stuck to it.
- There’s a two-hour safety window for leaving any food at room temperature and this is especially important with custard (a pie like this with eggs and dairy). The directions instruct to cool to room temperature for two hours before serving or chilling. That means if this pie sits out any additional time, maybe before serving (maybe on the dessert buffet while dinner is served and eaten) and/or sits out after serving it can pose a safety risk. Keep that total amount of time in mind as your pie cools on the rack.
- Cooling at room temperature helps minimize the possibility of the filling cracking and/or pulling away from the crust and helps to prevent condensation. Do use a rack or improvise something so air circulates under the pie as it cools so it cools as quickly as possible.
- Once cool, place pie in the fridge uncovered to minimize condensation; when it’s chilled cover it. (The pie becomes firmer in the fridge so this lessens the possibility it might become marred when being covered, too.)
- Even with all precautions taken, this pie tends to weep; before serving, if the top is wet, lay a paper towel or a smooth clean towel over the pie to absorb any moisture. Pat very gently and repeat as needed.
Know that this pie seldom cooks up with a perfectly flat, unmarred top because it will puff and then fall. There are often wrinkles and small cracks here and there, especially up to about an inch out from the crust. If you want to disguise that, either strategically pipe whipped cream around the edges of the pie or bake decorative leaves, acorns, etc. using any extra pie crust and place them on the pie.
When you look at the photo on the Libby’s site, know that your finished pie won’t look exactly like the one a team of professional food stylists worked on. Mine doesn’t! Actually, that pie might not even BE this pie; it sure doesn’t look like any Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie I’ve ever baked, including the pics of the one here. I used some harsh light on the comparison pics to highlight the differences in the pies; some of it was hardly noticeable in real life and keep in mind food always looks (and tastes, lol) better “in person.”
Saving Money on Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie:
The fall, in the pre-Thanksgiving through New Year’s sales (see my post on How to Beat the Grocery, Winter Holidays) is when you want to pick up canned pumpkin. My sister-in-law passed on that pies made with canned pumpkin are best after the canned pumpkin has “aged” a year or two. I swear it’s true! Stock up during the fall and stash some away to use throughout the year in savory dishes or desserts, and make sure to have enough for next year’s pie.
Pie crust is strange; it’s one of the few items that can be cheaper to buy with the right sale (and coupons) than to make. I’d rather have a homemade pie crust but that’s “just the facts, Ma’am.” It really all depends on the price of butter. Buy it at the low during the holidays and stash it in the freezer, and buy enough in the fall to last until Easter and enough at Easter to last until the fall. And yes, you should have a freezer if you’re interested in being frugal!
That brings me to butter, one of the priciest baking items. Really stock up and fill your freezer when the prices are low, which is usually the Winter Holidays and the pre-Easter & Lent sales. A rock bottom grocery sale price is usually better than what’s at the buyer’s club or Aldi, though both are far less than a regular grocery price. Know how much butter you use on average per week, count the weeks to the next big holiday, buy that amount and freeze.
Watch egg prices during the holiday sales and stock up. For instance, if they’re on sale around Halloween, buy enough to last to Thanksgiving, then at Thanksgiving, buy enough to last to Christmas, and so on. Eggs last for weeks past the “buy by” date, and for some items, like hard-boiled eggs or deviled eggs, it’s nice to have eggs that have a bit of age on them. If you eat eggs every day you might not have enough storage for this strategy.
I know this is long but I do want to talk about evaporated milk. Like most canned items, it’s best stored at room temp which according to ThoughtCo is (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F), and should be stored out of sunlight. The “best if used by” dates are put on by the producer, have nothing to do with food safety, and aren’t regulated. The quality of any canned goods can be affected by improper storage or age. If you open your can of evaporated milk and it is slightly darker than usual, don’t panic; the sugars in the milk have begun to caramelize. It’s still fine to use. If the milk is clumpy, it’s best to discard it. if the can is dented or rusted, discard to be on the safe side.
Other Options for Thanksgiving Desserts:
Sometimes pumpkin pie haters are perfectly satisfied with other pumpkiny recipes. I’ve found from personal experience, some will eat this Pumpkin Spice Cake, this Martin Sheen’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, my Grandmother’s Pumpkin Bread, and so on.
Notice the blatant self-promotion in linking you to my recipes. 🙂 And if you’re looking for other non-pumpkin options, there are several, some of them showstoppers, on my page Favorite Thanksgiving Desserts.Print
Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie
The old Back of the Can Recipe (from 1950 to 2019)
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 to 70 minutes
- Total Time: up to 1 hour 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 1x
- Category: Desserts
- Cuisine: American
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
- 1 can (12 fluid ounces) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk, (Or substitute with equal amount Lactose-Free or Almond Cooking Milk)
- 1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
- Whipped cream (optional)
MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
POUR into pie shell.
BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.
Keywords: condensed milk, Cream, Desserts, evaporated milk, Fruit Desserts, Libby's, Pie, Pie Crust, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie, whipped cream
I will be sharing Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie at Fiesta Friday #303 this week. I’m co-hosting this week with Antonia @ Zoale.com I hope you’ll drop by and see all the fall, Thanksgiving and a few Christmas posts by some of the most talented bloggers out here! Happy Holidays.