Every year, without fail, every coffee establishment ushers in “pumpkin spice” season as soon after “back-to-school” as possible. This doesn’t really make any difference to my family; I don’t drink coffee, and my husband prefers mochas. But the “pumpkin” portion of the season interests us greatly.
My husband loves pumpkin pie. I like it too, but it’s not the same kind of nostalgic “every holiday season since I was a kid” love. Sure, there was pumpkin pie around when I was little, but who wants pumpkin pie when my grandma’s homemade cherry pie was around? (The answer is: hardly anyone.)
As soon as it’s pumpkin pie season, I like to make sure my husband has one. It’s one of the things that I don’t mind him consuming as quickly as possible (the eggnog is another story).
I have a really great recipe that has the normal pumpkin pie spices, plus some Chinese Five Spice, no sugar (just sweetened condensed milk instead), and a TON of eggs. And my sister-in-law told me her pie crust secret, so now I am unstoppable. It’s awesome.
Grocery aisles are tricksy. The sweetened condensed milk is right next to the evaporated milk. And they’re packaged exactly the same way, only one says “sweetened condensed” on it and the other says “evaporated.” When we bought our first round of pumpkin pie ingredients for the year, we were so excited. I left the cans out on the counter for several days to build the anticipation. I didn’t realize the can said “evaporated milk” until I had already started dumping it into the pie filling.
I immediately called my mother (because who looks something up in a book or on the internet when you can get someone with experience in baking do it for you?). She found a recipe that used evaporated milk, and got the sugar measurement for me. I mixed everything together and put it in the oven, whining all the while. My husband had a piece that evening, and said it was good. I reasoned that this was because it was the first pie he’d had in close to a year, so the happiness of having the pie outweighed the possibly-not-so-great taste. He shrugged and cleaned his plate.
Another trip to the grocery store took us past an end cap that was stocked with everything to fulfill your pumpkin pie needs. I grabbed a can and made sure it said “Sweetened condensed” on it before putting it back and grabbing another can of pumpkin. Then I grabbed two cans of the milk, thinking I could make two more pies sometime this season with the stuff I had at home, and that maybe someday I’d use that other can of evaporated milk I’d bought for something else… even though I don’t really know what one uses evaporated milk for.
We returned home and I put away the groceries, folding up the plastic bags and putting them neatly away to be used in future craft projects. I put away the vegetable oil, the tea, and the whipped cream we’d bought to go with the pumpkin pie. Then I toted the cans back to the pantry and put the new can of pumpkin next to the old one, and placed the sweetened condensed milk on top of each of the cans of pumpkin… and then looked harder. The cans in my pantry both said “evaporated milk.”
I’ll get you, sneaky grocery stores… if it’s the last thing I doooo!