The Long Island cheese pumpkin, revered for its slightly flattened shape and sweet flavor, was once ubiquitous. Ken Ettlinger, who grew up eating the delicious squash, was dumbfounded when it suddenly disappeared. So Ettlinger tracked down the few farmers who had saved its seeds and brought it back from near-extinction, naming five varieties for the farms that grew them.
The Long Island cheese pumpkin is now grown nationwide. A member of the moschata species, like butternut squash, it is favored for making pumpkin pies over the jack o’ lantern, or pepo, variety. From the Long Island Seed Project: “Cheese pumpkins are, according to Native Seed Search of Tucson, Arizona, one of the oldest squashes to be domesticated and selected for food and animal feed. The ripe pumpkin is nutrient rich and bright orange with beta carotene. Of all the squash, they tend to have the smoothest flesh and lack the stringiness found in most pepo pumpkins; they are also known for their high sugar levels. They also have the distinctive butternut tan coloration in most cases.”
Here’s their pumpkin pie recipe, ’cause it’s only two and a half months until Halloween!
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. Add pumpkin pie spices. For every 2 cups of pureed squash add 1 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of ginger, 1/4 tsp. cloves and 1/2 tsp of salt. Since you’re essentially making a custard, add your custard ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 can of evaporated milk (or 1 cup of whole milk or light cream) and 3/4 cup sugar. Everything should be nice and blended to pour into a deep unbaked pie crust. Bake in a preheated 350° F 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.