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The Best Pumpkins for Pumpkin Pies

Updated on October 9, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Growing pumpkins for Halloween is a great family project. What you plan to do with them will determine which ones you grow. Large pumpkins that are suitable for use as jack-o-lanterns aren't used for cooking because their flesh is watery and stringy. The stringiness will not combine well with the other ingredients for a smooth batter. The extra moisture makes the batter too moist so that the resulting bread or muffin will not bake correctly. It will not have the proper "crumb" or texture.

The best pumpkins for cooking, especially that all-important pie, are smaller with firmer flesh and lower water content. The firm flesh mixes in with the flour, sugar and eggs creating a smooth batter. The low water content allows you to better control the moisture of the batter so that it will bake correctly and your finished product will have that desirable "crumb" or texture.

Source

Culinary Pumpkins

Culinary pumpkins tend to weigh less than 10 pounds, falling in the range of 5 to 8 pounds each. Both heirlooms and hybrids can be grown and used for cooking.

Heirlooms are plants that are "open pollinated". If kept isolated from other plants of the same variety, they will produce seeds that will grow into plants that are identical to the parents. The advantages of growing heirlooms are that you can save the seed from year to year rather than buying new seeds every year and the taste of heirlooms is usually superior to hybrids.

Hybrids are plants that are the result of deliberate cross-pollination between two different varieties. The reason this is done is to combine the best features of both parents into a new plant variety. Desirable features include disease resistance, uniformity of fruit and increased yields. The drawbacks are that you must purchase new seeds each year and the fruit may not be as flavorful as heirlooms.

Heirloom pumpkin varieties that are commonly grown for cooking include Small Sugar, Baby Pam and New England Pie. Hybrid pumpkins that are suitable to cook with include Howden's Field, Autumn Gold (an AAS variety) and Triple Treat.

Rouge Vif D'Etampes Pumpkin
Rouge Vif D'Etampes Pumpkin | Source

Pumpkins that aren’t pumpkins

Everyone knows and loves the heirloom pumpkin, Rouges Vif d'Etampes, also known as the Cinderella pumpkin, but it is not a true pumpkin. Pumpkins are classified as Cucurbita pepo. Cinderella pumpkins are classified as Cucurbita maxima, considered a variety of winter squash. Nevertheless, they can be used for cooking and baking. Another heirloom favorite that is not a true pumpkin is Musquee de Provence, classified as Cucurbita moschata, also a variety of winter squash. Musque de Provence is likewise a good culinary squash. Both have firm flesh and low water content. And those pastel pumpkins that you see everywhere? They are called, improbably, cheese pumpkins and classified as Cucurbita moschata. Not only are they wonderful decorative squash, but you can cook with them too.

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash | Source

What's in those cans?

So what variety of pumpkin is in those cans of puree that fill the grocery shelves each fall? Winter squash, not pumpkin. Libby, the largest producer of canned pumpkin, uses Dickinson pumpkins, a variety of butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata). Other winter squash that can be substituted include hubbard squash, buttercup squash and turban squash all of which are Cucurbita maxima.

How to make pumpkin puree

No matter which pumpkin or squash you grow, making puree is easy.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wash the fruit and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. Lay the halves face down on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until soft.

Cool the halves and then scoop out the cooked flesh. Puree it in a food processor. The puree can be used immediately or frozen for later use.

When all is said and done, pumpkins are just a variety of winter squash. So if you are unable to grow or buy culinary pumpkins, you can substitute other kinds of winter squash in your recipes.

© 2013 Caren White

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    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Lady Guinevere, you are so welcome! I was shocked to learn what was in the cans. Made me look at winter squash in a whole new way. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      3 years ago from West By God

      Thanks for this information. I make my own pumpkin puree too. I never knew what was in the can called pumpkins and now I know. Thank you so much for writing this hub.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Meg, I'll work on that! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      I always wondered how pumpkin pies were made. Just wish we could TASTE the hubs, to see if I would like it. Great information, thanks.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Poetryman, ever tried pumpkin bowling? Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 

      3 years ago

      To me, pumpkins are for chunking. I prefer sweet potato pie. But your hub looks good in any case!

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Olgsinquito, I have made a pumpkin pie out of "real" pumpkin and honestly didn't taste a difference. Maybe it was all of the spices. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 

      4 years ago from USA

      I didn't know that winter squash was used for canned "pumpkins." Most of us have probably never tasted real pumpkin pie.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I was the same way until I started cooking them. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Helpful information. I was ignorant about this for years. I just thought a pumpkin was a pumpkin until I started growing them. LOL

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Pawpaw, we've had a cooler than usual August here in NJ so I am in the mood for fall early this year, that includes pumpkin pie. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 

      4 years ago from Kansas

      This is good information to have this time of year. I'm ready for some good ole pumpkin pie.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      You're absolutely right. Squash is Cucurbita moschata and pumpkins are Cucurbita pepo so it's not surprising that they would taste differenty. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thanks for the very interesting insight into the pumpkin pies that we usually make over the holidays. For years, I've thought I should bake my own pumpkin to make my homemade pies. Last year, I did, and used a regular pumpkin. The taste was good but quite different from what I was used to. I had no idea that the Libby's canned pumpkin was actually Dickinson pumpkins, a variety of butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata).

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Flourish, I didn't know what was in those cans either. Finding out inspired me to write this hub. Thanks for reading and pinning!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 years ago from USA

      This was interesting, as I never knew what exactly was in those cans nor did I know how to make puree. Voted up ++ and pinning.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Pearl, I love multi-use items. Because pumpkins keep so well (low water content), you can use them for both Halloween and Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading and pinning!

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      JG, you are so ambitious! One pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving is all I can manage. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Great information, I had no idea the canned pumpkin was actually squash! I bought a small pumpkin that weighs about 5 pounds. I just thought it was cute and used it as decoration. It's great to know I can also make a pie from it--thanks for sharing this ;) Pearl

      Voted Up++ and pinned

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 

      4 years ago

      Quite useful and concise. I make a good half a dozen pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, so this just may yet come in handy.

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