Sorry Virginia, there is no pumpkin in your pie today. Most of the canned pumpkin filling on the market is from another type of winter squash. Traditional pumpkins, the ones we carve at Halloween, belong to the species Cucurbita pepo. You would end up with a bland and watery pie if you used the pulp from this group. Other members of this species include Zucchini, Acorn Squash and Delicata.
Libby’s uses a variety name Dickinson, which is a different species — Cucurbita moschata. This group includes Butternut and Cushaw and Long Island Cheese.
The fact is many types of winter squash will make great pumpkin pie filling. If you have a Butternut or Buttercup or Blue Hubbard, bake them, remove the pulp and proceed with your favorite recipe. It is fun to make your own. It is even more rewarding if you have grown your own. Here is the ironic twist of the whole process; canned filling is nearly as good.
There is one pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) that stands above all others in quality of flesh — Winter Luxury Pie. It is a beautiful small pumpkin with a long handle and fine russet netting over an orange base.
The one flaw with Winter Luxury Pie is short storage life. By the time Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive, this pumpkin has started to shrivel. For this reason, we cook them according to the directions below. From there, we freeze the pulp in two-cup increments. So if you want a pie with real pumpkin filling, grow this beauty.
Amy Goldman describes the Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin in her book,
“The Complete Squash,” excerpted below:
Winter Luxury Pie is my favorite orange pumpkin, and were she not the finest pie stock in the land, she still would be a knockout. That outrageous trophy fruit stalk is the perfect counterpoint to her modest and petite curvaceous form. Though it breaks my heart to cut one open, I know the flavor will be as fabulous as her appearance.
Winter Luxury Pie was introduced to the general public in 1893 by Johnson & Stokes of Philadelphia. This special strain, apparently developed by an anonymous pumpkin farmer, was similar in many respects (even down to the occasional warts) to the still popular Sugar Pumpkin. By 1917, brothers Ray W. and Edward E. Gill, of the Gill Brothers Seed Company, Portland, Oregon, had bred Winter Luxury Pie up in size. Famed for breeding such wonders as the Golden Delicious squash on their own farmers, Ray and Edward knew a thing or two about pumpkins: “Simply cook [Winter Luxury Pie] done and it is ready for use in making pies.”
Winter Luxury Pie makes the smoothest and most velvety pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. When cut into a wedge on a plate, it holds its shape, color, and flavor long after the competition has keeled over and died. Ray and Edward didn’t spell it out for you, so I will. Simply “cook it done” this way:
1. Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin should be baked whole, pierced for a few tiny vent holes, stem trimmed, at 350*F until it “slumps” and softens after an hour or so. If you wish, you can cut a lid, remove the gunk and seeds, and replace the lid loosely before baking (this method yields a drier pie).
2. The cooked pumpkin is hotter than hot potatoes: Be careful when you cut out or removed the lid. Seeds and strings, if left inside, come out easily. Take a large spoon and simply scoop the pumpkin out like ice cream. The flesh peels away from the desiccated rind without a shudder and leaves it flat.
3. Puree the flesh in a blender, adding liquid if needed. A 5-pound pumpkin yields approximately 2 1/2 pounds or 4 cups of pulp, enough for two pies.
4. Insert your favorite pie recipe here.