Leave the pureeing to the professionals.
Pumpkin-Chocolate Brownies
Credit: Greg DuPree

Once regarded as a miracle that fed arctic explorers and prevented disease, canned foods don't get much love these days. Instead we prize the artisan-made, and in turn our cabinets sport a lot less aluminum. But one famous can deserves praise: Libby's Pumpkin. While it may seem a noble effort to saw, hack, and puree your own pumpkin for that pie, you will likely end up with a hot mess and what appears to be a bad fake tan. That's because the pumpkins you see perched atop hay bales at the grocery store don't compare to the pumpkins Libby's has developed since it started canning them in 1929. To produce the 90-million-pies worth of cans, they rely on their proprietary variety of Dickinson pumpkin called Libby's Select, which has a thinner skin with a thicker layer of sweet, almost butternut-squash-flavored flesh. As for its velvety texture? Try as you might to find one, there is no sieve or high-priced, metal-grinding blender that will produce a puree so smooth and free of fibrous strands. So the next time a wave of guilt rushes over you as you crank your can opener, whether it be from a comment from an overzealous blogger or preachy Thanksgiving guest, consider this your free pass. Some things are just best left to the professionals.

Libby's Canned Pumpkin
Credit: Alison Miksch

1. Roast it: Spread puree on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and roast at 350° until it begins to brown. It will
create a deeper taste.

2. Drink it: Pour a teaspoon or two of puree into bourbon-based cocktails.

3. Sauce it: Stir puree into a cream-based pasta sauce, and serve with ravioli.

4. Spread it: Add a few tablespoons of puree to cream cheese.

5. Stir it: Spoon a few tablespoons of puree, plus honey, cinnamon, and berries to oatmeal to make a quick, good-for-you breakfast. Or add 1 can of pumpkin to your favorite hummus recipe for a savory seasonal snack.

6. Flip it: Mix in 6 tablespoons of pumpkin puree into pancake batter for pumpkin flapjacks.

7. Simmer it: Stir in half a can of pumpkin puree into your go-to chili recipe.

8. Layer it: Combine a couple tablespoon of pumpkin puree with a half cup of yogurt, and layer with granola and pumpkin seeds.

9. Shake it: Blend 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree into a vanilla milkshake for sip-able pumpkin pie.