Pie pumpkins are any one of several varieties of pumpkin grown for eating rather than decorative purposes. Generally, they are smaller and more dense than decorative pumpkins. Recipes calling for pumpkin may use canned or fresh varieties, but should never have decorative pumpkins used as a substitute.
In North America, decorative pumpkins are carved into jack-o'-lanterns in honor of Halloween. Those bred for this purpose are usually meant to be very large, mostly hollow, and flat-bottomed for stability. The side effect of the large growth is that the flesh is usually watery and bland. Although the seeds inside are excellent for toasting, the flesh should not be eaten, as it is usually tasteless. Common varieties of decorative pumpkin include Howdon biggy and Connecticut field.
Pie pumpkins are small and dense and usually have a medium or dark orange color. They usually appear in markets and grocery stores in September, and continue to be sold through November. The most common variety is the deliciously flavorful sugar pie, but other eating pumpkins may include winter luxury, deep red, and golden cushaw.
The most obvious use for these pumpkins is to bake the autumn favorite pumpkin pie. To make the pie, cooks can cut the squash in half and remove all seeds and stringy "guts," then bake it until completely soft, usually about one and a half hours. In a blender, she should combine the cooked flesh with cream, eggs, brown sugar, and spices. Typically used spices include cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. The blended mixture is then poured into a single pie crust and baked at 350°F (176.6°C) for 40-50 minutes.
This type of pumpkin can be used in any recipe calling for the squash. Indian cuisine includes recipes for spicy pumpkin curry, which makes a delicious autumn meal. It can also be added to pancake batter before cooking, then topping with maple syrup and whipped cream. A variety of recipes are available for pumpkin soup, which can be hearty and filling on cool evenings.
For a moist and delicious pumpkin bread, bakers can cook pumpkin as in the pie recipe above and puree it or use canned pumpkin. The puree can be combined with flour, melted oil or butter, sugar, eggs, nuts and spices. Different recipes call for different rising ingredients, but many chefs prefer a mixture of baking soda and baking powder. To make this filling bread a delicious dessert, half a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips may be added. It can be baked in a 325°F (162.7°C) oven until a knife poked into the bread comes out clean.
Pie pumpkins are an excellent source of beta carotene, calcium and potassium. For vegetarians, it can make an excellent replacement for meat in winter stews and soups. Many people consider pumpkin pie to be the essence of fall, reminding them of crisp falling leaves, cool evenings and the approaching holidays. Any pumpkin recipe can be a source of comfort and warmth, but cooks be sure to use the correct type to achieve a richly flavored result.