Firstly, we’d like to throw a common misconception out the window for you pie eaters: When you buy pumpkin mash, that squash in the can is probably not the typical orange pumpkin you see everywhere on Halloween, which is a member, scientifically, of the pepo family — that’d also include your summer squash, acorn squash and zucchini.
Instead that bright, creamy orange flesh is a moschata squash, of which — along with the equally pleasing, yet more well-known, butternut squash — our local Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is a member.
We agree that some combo of gourd and dairy would be awesome, but the cheese pumpkin’s only relation to cheese is its wide, cheese rind-like appearance. It’s a bit lighter in color too, but only on the outside. Carve a knife into one of these squash, first cultivated out on the Island, and find smooth, dense meat, perfect for baking, roasting, stewing, or even for turning into custard. (Or pie: Find a great pie recipe below.)
What to Bake With Them
As per Ken Ettlinger of Long Island Seed Project, as featured in Edible East End‘s Winter 2008 story Banking on Seeds, the Long Island Cheese pumpkin (or hey, butternut squash) tastes super good in this four-step pie.
1. Prepare moschata squash (butternut types, neck pumpkin or cheese) either by oven roasting in a covered heavy pan with enough liquid to allow the squash to cook until soft without browning, or by allowing cubed squash to cook in a pot of water on top of the stove until tender (check with a fork). Allow the cooked squash to completely drain and cool and puree in a food processor.
2. Add pumpkin pie spices. For every 2 cup of pureed squash add 11/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
3. Since you’re essentially making a custard, add your custard ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 can of evaporated milk (or 1 c. of whole milk or light cream) and 3/4 cup sugar for every 2 cups of pureed squash. Everything should be nice and blended to pour into a deep unbaked pie crust.
4. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven and the depth of your pie. Check for firmness toward the end of the baking time (you want a firm custard), but don’t let the pumpkin filling overcook or scorch.
Where To Find Them
Now that we’ve got your taste buds at attention, it seems only fair to help you find one of these delicious beauties. There are a few farmers selling Long Island cheese pumpkins at city Greenmarkets, but why not head out to the Forks this weekend and pick yourself up a fresh one off one of these farmstands? (And for most farms, this’d be the last weekend to do so.)
• Halsey Farm (513 Deerfield Road, Water Mill), where you can pick one up for .50 cents a pound from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
• Fairview Farm (19 Horsemill Lane, Bridgehampton), where you can opt to U-pick or take a pre-selected pumpkin from their farmstand at .60 cents a pound. Hours: Mon & Thurs 2-6 p.m.; Fri 12-6 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Harbes’ Mattituck Farm Market (715 Sound Avenue, Mattituck) for LI Cheeses pre-picked at .99 cents a pound now through this Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.