The Long Island Cheese pumpkin is an American heirloom that was domesticated in New York in the 1860s. It belongs to the species Cucurbita moschata, which are some of the oldest squashes to be domesticated from Central and northern America. The Long Island Cheese pumpkin was named for its resemblance to a wheel of cheese. It has smooth heavily ribbed tan skin with a deep orange flesh and it can weigh up to six to ten pounds in total.
The Long Island Cheese pumpkin is well known to be high in beta-carotene, which gives its flesh the bright orange color. In addition, the pumpkin is also known to be nutrient rich with high sugar levels. Of all of the pumpkins, the Long Island Cheese pumpkin has the smoothest flesh and lacks the stinginess found in most other pepo pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo). This makes the Long Island Cheese pumpkin a favorite for baking into pies.
The Long Island Cheese pumpkin is a winter squash that develops a thick hard skin when its reaches maturity, giving it a long storage life. If stored in a cool, dark, ventilated place, the Long Island Cheese pumpkin can keep for about ninety to a hundred days. This contrasts to the summer squashes that have thinner, tenderer skins. Summer squash have a shorter storage life and have to be eaten shortly after it is picked. This type of squash tends to be stringier, more watery, and less sweet compared to the winter pumpkins.
As mentioned briefly above, the Long Island Cheese pumpkin is one of the oldest squashes to be domesticated for food and animal feed. Dating back to the early 1800s, the Long Island Cheese pumpkin was sold on American seed catalogues and marketed as the best pie pumpkin you can eat. According to the Long Island Seed Project, it was in the late 1970s, when Ken Ettlinger, a local seed saver from Manorville, noticed that the Long Island pumpkin was becoming less common in catalogues that he began to save the seeds from the fruit he bought at East End farm stands. Shortly after, Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and other seed catalogues began listing the Long Island Cheese pumpkin as an East Coast heirloom and its seeds are now available on several sites online.
Try this recipe with Long Island Cheese pumpkin at home!
Recipe: Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Pie
2 cups mashed Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
12 oz. evaporated milk
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 cup of honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 unbaked 9-inch, deep-dish pie shell
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Cut pumpkin into quarters and place into baking dish
-Add 1 cup of water and cover completely with foil
-Bake for about 90 minutes
-Remove from pan and let cool
-Remove skin and mash with a potato masker
-Place in mesh strainer over a bowl and let drain for 2 hours or overnight in the
-Process the pumpkin in a food processor until creamy
-Preheat over to 425 degrees
-In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of prepared pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar
or honey, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, and eggs
-Whisk until completely combined
-Pour into prepared pie shell and bake for 15 minutes
-Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes
-Cool for 2 hours before serving
Recipe from Central Market Poulsbo – Culinary Resource Center