The Best Pumpkins for Pumpkin Pies
Growing pumpkins for Halloween is a great family project. What you plan to do with your pumpkins will determine which pumpkins 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 best pumpkins for cooking, especially that all-important pumpkin pie, are smaller with firmer flesh and lower water content.
Culinary pumpkins tend to weigh less than 10 pounds, falling in the range of 5 to 8 pounds each. Heirloom varieties include Small Sugar, Baby Pam and New England Pie. Modern hybrid pumpkins that are suitable to cook with include Howden's Field, Autumn Gold (an AAS variety) and Triple Treat.
Pumpkins that aren’t pumpkins
Everyone knows and loves the heirloom pumpkin, Rouges Vif d'Etampes, 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, Cinderella pumpkins 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 pumpkin. 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 pumpkins, but you can cook with them too.
What's in those cans?
So what variety of pumpkin is in those cans of pumpkin 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 for pumpkins 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 pumpkin 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 another winter squash. So if you are unable to grow or buy culinary pumpkins, you can substitute other kinds of winter squash in your recipes.
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© 2013 Caren White