Throughout the years, I have often been asked, “What’s the best pumpkin to use for pumpkin pie?” In our early years, I would just answer, “Oh, I just use the can. It’s fast and easy.” Honestly, I had never even tried making a pie out of the actual pumpkin. Then I started hearing the butternut squash makes a very good “pumpkin pie”, so I tried that, and liked it.
But, then we started growing an old-fashioned “pumpkin” called Long Island Cheese (yes, they were originally cultivated on the island). Long Island Cheese, like most of the “pumpkin” you find in the can, is not from the same family as your typical carving pumpkin. Long Island Cheese are in the moshata squash family, along with their sister, the butternut squash. (Orange carving pumpkins are in the pepo family, same as summer squash, acorn squash and zucchini.) They are a beautiful velvety tan color with very exact ribbing. Their texture inside is absolutely perfect for baking, roasting, and of course making the custard for a pumpkin pie. It is smooth and dense, not stringy like some pumpkins are.
Granted, Long Island Cheese are larger than the small sugar pie pumpkins that some people use, but I rather prefer that. When I cook the squash, I always have enough for 2 or 3 pies, so I freeze a couple of freezer bags of the flesh (usually in 2 cup increments) to use later in the winter for pies, bread, or other delicious pumpkin based recipes.
I’d like to share the recipe for pumpkin pie that I use. Nothing fancy, but delicious.
- Prepare the squash by roasting pieces in a covered heavy pan with enough liquid to allow the squash to cook until soft. You may also boil the squash in a pot of water until tender. Either way, allow the cooked squash to completely drain, then puree.
- Mix together: 2 cups pureed squash, 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. ginger, ¼ tsp. ground cloves, and ½ tsp. salt.
- Add 2 eggs, 1 can evaporated milk, and ¾ cup sugar (I usually use a little less). Mix very well.
- Pour into a deep unbaked pie crust (yes, I do cheat on that)!
- Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes to an hour. Check for firmness toward the end, but do not allow to scorch or overcook.
So if you’re looking for a beautiful decoration and will do double duty for a perfect pie, try a Long Island Cheese “Pumpkin”.