Pumpkin pies and other foods for your
Thanksgiving meal are available in all
cleanings before entering the building.
Employees supervise the mechanized
equipment during the process, as pumpkins
are chopped, de-seeded (the seeds are sold
to a bird feed company), de-stemmed,
chopped again, separated from their skin,
cooked, heated and mashed into puree.
Pumpkins are about 90 per cent water, so
much of the initial cooking process is done
to evaporate the water content.
The puree is then sucked into pipes that
pour precise amounts into waiting 100-
ounce cans (for Costco’s run). Once canned,
the puree cooks again in large drum barrels
for five and a half hours before being cooled,
then labelled and shipped to Costco’s warehouses all over Canada.
It takes three pumpkins to fill one of
Costco’s cans. According to Costco bakery
buyer Sunny Briden, it took nearly 400,000
kilograms (881,600 pounds) of canned
pumpkin to make pies last year. That means
Canadian Costco members consumed 3. 6
million pumpkins in their pies last year.
Pies, camera, action
A few weeks later, I was excited to get a
first-hand lesson in making the pies at
Costco’s warehouse bakery.
First, pie dough is made in-house, rolled
into balls about the size of a fist and pressed
in a machine that forms the perfect crust.
Pie filling is mixed in industrial stand mixers, then poured into each pie shell.
Uncooked pies are placed on baking racks,
baked in industrial ovens, cooled, then
packaged and displayed for members.
But the devil’s in the details. The bakery
supervisor immediately puts me to work
pressing out pie shells on a machine. This
part is fun, but ensuring the dough adequately fills the edges requires a good long
press, and I keep trying to rush the process.
Once the filling is mixed, it is poured
into waiting pie shells. Each uncooked pie
should weigh a specific 1.85 kilograms ( 4. 1
pounds). It’s easy for arms and wrists to get
a workout from repeated scooping.
After more than 30 minutes of filling
pies, I feel accomplished at rolling two 1.8-
metre (6-foot-tall) racks, which hold a total
of 48 pies, into the ovens. But that feeling
quickly dissipates when I’m told an experienced baker would have done the same
number in seven minutes.
Despite the learning curve, I have a
whole new respect for what it takes to bring
pumpkin pies to members (and to my birth-
day) each year. In the weeks leading up to
Thanksgiving, Costco bakeries recruit addi-
tional staff who work around the clock mak-
As I walk into the warehouse after my
shift to do my own shopping, I wonder
which members will purchase the pies I
made, praying it isn’t obvious that they were
baked by a complete novice. But then again,
Costco wouldn’t sell a pie that wasn’t complete perfection. C
From top: Pumpkins grow in a field outside Chatham, Ontario; pumpkins being
windrowed; chopped and de-stemmed
pumpkins enter the production line;
puree fills cans for Costco.
WANT TO take your Costco pie to the
next level? Set up a toppings bar at
your next family gathering, and fill it
with these tasty options:
• Praline or streusel mixture.
• Homemade plain or flavored whipped
creams (go for warm flavour profiles
such as cinnamon or bourbon-maple).
• Flavoured yogurt (in place of
• Ground cinnamon or ginger.
• Maple syrup.
• Chocolate chips or sauce.
• Salted caramel sauce.
• Nuts, such as walnuts,
pecans or slivered almonds.
• Brown sugar.
• Toasted marshmallows.
• Dried coconut flakes.
• Crushed gingersnap cookies.
• Slices of candied apples.
• Apple butter.—HM