Where to buy a pie-appropriate pumpkin variety in NYC?
November 24, 2021 2:34 AM   Subscribe

I want to make a pie from scratch. So roasting a pumpkin or squash, and then using it in a pie. Are there any places that have a good selection of rarer produce that might have these? Also, any variety recs would be very welcome, and any good recipe links if you have ‘em handy.

I’d prefer to not use a butternut squash, I’d rather it be something unusual if possible. My local stores don’t have good produce selection so not sure where to head.

Also I’m having trouble googling any of these details because I keep getting bakery info for buying pies no matter what terms I use, using quotes, etc. I don’t usually cook so maybe the algorithm is refusing to show me cook-from-scratch deets lol. Any ideas welcomed.
posted by asimplemouse to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
All the winter squashes are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to pie. Most of the flavor comes from the spice blend that gets used for it anyway - that spice blend is what you're actually tasting and/or smelling with all the pumpkin spice everything.

Fortunately any of the farmers' markets would have unusual winter squashes for you to try out. Here's an old NY Times article I found which breaks down the different kinds of squash you may run into, and what each kind is best used for (and yes, they do flag some kinds which are good for pie). I would also add that spaghetti squash and delicata are probably NOT good choices; spaghetti squash may be a little too fibrous, and delicata may just be too small.

Or you could just use the pumpkin variety that is literally called "pie pumpkin" - that should be easy to find.

Also fortunately, if you're not able to get to a farmers' market in time, some of the more unusual squashes may be available in the foofier grocers like Whole Foods. Also, you may only need 2 cups or so of the cooked pumpkin, so a big enormous pumpkin would actually be a bad idea; you'd have to use the rest of the puree in something else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]

I haven't looked for that specifically at Fairway, but they have a wide variety of produce, and I bet they'd have some pumpkins or similar that would be excellent for pie.
posted by zorseshoes at 4:44 AM on November 24

You could use a kabocha squash.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:04 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]

Agree with the kabocha recommendation and add the possibility of a red kuri squash. To me they are comparable in flavor and texture.
posted by fancyoats at 5:09 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

I always buy pie pumpkins (the small, round pumpkins) for pies/baked goods/other fresh puree uses -- they're less stringy and a tinge sweeter.

If you can find it, the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is a variety historically popular on Long Island - this was the first year I'd ever seen them in the Philly region, but you might have luck finding one in NYC. This is a pie recipe specific to them.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:21 AM on November 24

Every year I buy a blue Hubbard squash from Whole Foods for this purpose, so… I would go there and get one of those.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 6:23 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, pie pumpkins are out of season here in MN; but they're still findable at big grocery stores. I've used winter squash mixed with canned pumpkin with no trouble, and seeing the above answers makes me feel more confident that an all-squash pie would be just fine. Or, buy up and roast the farmer's market pumpkins ahead of time and freeze 'em (in the future).

The key to an awesome pumpkin pie is, in my experience, freshly ground nutmeg.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:14 AM on November 24

Best answer: Pie pumpkin farmer here (among other things.) Just to get it out of the way--I know you say you don't want to use it, but butternut (properly cured) does make the best pies and always wins my taste tests.

Anyway among actual pie pumpkins I really like New England Long Pie, but it will be very hard to find and only at farm/produce stands or farmer's markets. A close second is Winter Luxury. This will be much easier to find but probably also only at farmers markets or stands. It doesn't transport well so it will be less common at stores. It is lighter in color and the skin is netted sort of like a cantaloupe. The most common type at stores are the Pam or Sugar Pie type--small round orange pumpkins with a hard skin. These are perfectly fine and will be much better than canned "pumpkin". Similar to pams are Cinderella types like Rouge Vif d'Etampes. There are many flat pumpkins (some that others have mentioned here) that are are usually used decoratively but are also good for eating. Basically if you cut it open and the flesh is deep orange in color and very dense and not stringy or grainy it will probably be good for eating.

Also as others have mentioned any winter squash can be used for pies with good results--Hubbard, whatever. Just be sure to roast it completely. You should be able to easily remove the skin after it cools (it will separate from the flesh) and mash up the roasted pumpkin with a fork and use it without having to run it through a food processor or blender.
posted by sevenless at 7:42 AM on November 24 [7 favorites]

Basically if you cut it open and the flesh is deep orange in color and very dense and not stringy or grainy it will probably be good for eating.

As a tip, if the flesh is lighter in color and/or very stringy, you can still make a good pie out of it by doing the following: squeeze the "guts" of the pumpkin through a sieve until you have a goodly amount of pumpkin juice (it may be necessary to massage the guts with your hands and a little water first to loosen up the juices); then make a simple syrup by adding sugar in a 1:1 ratio to the juice and heating on the stove.

When you have roasted your light and stringy pumpkin until the flesh is soft, add a small amount of the pumpkin simple syrup to loosen it during the mashing, blending, or food processing. Reduce the sugar in your pie recipe accordingly.

Excess pumpkin simple syrup can be used in lieu of sugar in your coffee, or as a cocktail ingredient.
posted by gauche at 8:46 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

All the winter squashes are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to pie. Most of the flavor comes from the spice blend that gets used for it anyway

While it’s possible to overwhelm almost any squash with spices and sugar, the first sentence really isn’t true IME. Some squashes (pumpkins included) have a whole lot of squashy flavor as well as sweetness and smooth texture. They do need to be harvested, cured, and stored carefully, and the freshest prettiest ones aren’t always the tastiest, which is confusing. But they are totally capable of flavor and sweetness and rewarding the produce chains that pull that off is a good idea!

Technical details of squash quality and harvest, from a US NE seed company and aimed at small market farmers, so varieties they mention should do well nearish NY.
posted by clew at 9:52 AM on November 24

Response by poster: Thanks all!
posted by asimplemouse at 3:29 AM on November 27

So what did you find and how did it cook up?
posted by clew at 3:07 PM on November 27

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