News flash – Food & Wine reports that cans of pumpkin aren’t actually pumpkin. Even 100% pumpkin labeled cans are made of a range of squash. Not surprising, the FDA is rather vague about what a pumpkin is and to be fair, pumpkins are in the squash family.
So today pumpkin purees are now a mix of winter squashes, including butternut squash, Golden Delicious, and Hubbard. Libby’s, the largest pumpkin puree brand, is using Dickinson, a squash which is more closely related to butternut squash than it is pumpkin.
I myself love a buttercup squash pie. But beware, if this Thanksgiving you want to buy a pumpkin from the store to make your own homemade pumpkin pie extraordinaire, there probably all jack 0′ lantern varieties, stringy and tasteless. Pie pumpkins tend to be small. So unless you know your pie variations, stick with acorn or buttercup squash. You’re almost sure to love it. I like Hubbard too. It just requires a hand saw to open – tough little beggars!
I’ve found 2 pumpkins which grow well for me and are absolutely delish. The Rouge Vif D Etampes, also known as the Cinderella pumpkin from France. The Rouge Vif D’ Etampes is very light, sweet tasting with a stringy textured but can be made much smoother with a blender.
The Sugar Pie is a small pumpkin with the earthy traditional flavor you think of when you imagine pumpkin pie and is creamy and smooth.
Fresh is always best but most times I’m making my pies from frozen or canned varieties from the garden. There is nothing like home grown so don’t believe anything you read that says otherwise. I thought not too until I spent 10 years experimenting with various varieties. Maybe you have your favorites already that grow well for you and fit your pallet.
Most years I grow just the New England Sugar Pie on the right as it is thick and requires only the blender to make it creamy and smooth. Texture and flavor changes slightly every year as the weather and amount of water the plants gets, varies so I have to adjust my recipe just a bit to compensate or rather I change what I dump in.
The pumpkin on the left is Rouge Vif D’ Etampes and when frozen or canned gets quite watery really throwing off your recipe. The trick is to drain the liquid off. Don’t throw it away though. That’s where most of the flavor is.
Cook it down to intensify the taste and remove much of the liquid. Then add it back to the pumpkin and blend. You can do this with any pumpkin or squash that acts too watery. It will make you almost wish they were all too liquidy.
The trick to working with fresh ingredients is adjust. It’s well worth it. I blend my pumpkin adding an egg and just enough goat milk to allow it to move freely between the blades. Then I slowly add sugar, spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger until it’s tastes like no pie my mama ever made. Add some more milk to reach the canned pie puree consistency and your ready.
If you want to skip the pie crust, just pour it into small dishes to bake. It’s now pudding instead. A little whip cream topping and everyone will be in heaven.
Using a crust, then cook your filling about ten minutes, getting it really hot and mud pot like. You know, plop, plop burst, like the mud pots in Yellowstone Park or Jellystone as we affectionately call it. This helps keep the liquids from absorbing into the pie crust.
You might want to make both a Rouge Vif D’ Entampe pie and a New England Sugar Pie just to compare. It’s like white bread versus whole wheat bread. The Rouge Vif D’ Entampe is sweeter, lighter and more candy like. The New England Sugar Pie is what you’ve come to imagine as pumpkin pie, earthy and comforting.
But don’t stop there, try some winter squashes too like Hubbard, acorn, and buttercup. Pumpkins are a part of the squash family and though I may not make spaghetti squash in part because I don’t like it or zucchini simply because it just doesn’t feel right doing so. There are plenty others out there to explore.