Taste Test: Frozen pumpkin pie

Sampling store-bought pumpkin pies turned into a discussion about the lost art of pastrymaking. Taster's Choice judges remembered the days when home economics was required and buying a pie for Thanksgiving was unthinkable. The pies we found in local grocery store freezers are probably big sellers this season, but judges were disappointed in the quality. If you don't make your own pastry, our judges said stopping by the bakery for a fresh pie would be worth the extra effort. — Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)
Marie

Callender's/77
Publix/56Chef Jean Pierre/32 Mrs. Smith's/25
How'd it look? Dark, glowing, glazed.Caramelized.Like butterscotch

pudding.
Droopy.
Judges' comments Panelists raved about the crust of this pie. It baked up shiny, toasty and flavorful. Marie Callender's pumpkin pie was the most homemade looking and tasting of those sampled. It had the strongest pumpkin, cinnamon and spice seasonings and panelists described it as the "sturdiest" of the store-bought pies.While the pumpkin flavor was pronounced in this pie, the texture was too runny and weak for most panelists. They didn't complain about the taste of the crust, but they said the pastry was "industrial looking." One described the pie as "pumpkin flan." Another compared it to custard.Chef Jean Pierre's frozen pie was bright orange and a bit soggy. Judges said it was too heavy on nutmeg and too weak on body. A couple described it as "Jell-O pudding" rather than pie. "It broke apart in my mouth," said one.Judges said Mrs. Smith's pie seemed sad, soupy and soppy. The crust was a bit gummy and too salty. "This pie lacks form," said one panelist. She described the slice as "Charlie Brown pumpkin pie — the last tree in the lot!"
Would they buy? All four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.All four judges said no.All four judges said no.
Shopping information$6.99 for a 36-ounce pie from Publix.$4.49 for a 26-ounce pie.$4.79 for a 43-ounce pie from GFS (Gordon Food Service) Marketplace.$4.39 for a 27-ounce pie from Publix.
Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Laura Reiley, Times food critic; and Wendy Brown and Christina Catlett, dietetic interns at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taste Test: Frozen pumpkin pie 11/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 21, 2009 3:30am]

    

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