Cushaw Pie

I use the same recipe for pumpkin, sweet potato, or squash pies. It’s from the NYT Natural Foods Cookbook (ca. 1983). I buy a crust, but the filling is just the squash, eggs, honey, and pie spices. No refined sugar and not that much honey. I don’t know why cushaw squash makes the best pie, but I make sure to buy one at the farmers market every year. They’re huge — a good sized cushaw weighs about 15 pounds and makes at least 3-4 pies. I cut it into pieces and bake it, mash it, and freeze it in pie-size amounts. It’s pretty fibrous, but I puree it thoroughly in the blender until smooth. The cushaw has a natural sweetness and silkiness that it just luxurious.

About Cushaws

The cushaw is a very large crookneck squash weighing up to 20 pounds. It is, of course, related to the other common winter squashes. There are actually two (some say three) species of cushaw: the Cucurbita argyrosperma, which is the more common type, has a green and white mottled or striped skin that resembles a giant zucchini. There is also a yellow (or “golden”) cushaw Cucurbita moschata that looks just like the green one except for the color. The flesh of the yellow type is a pale orange, while that of the green cushaw is a bit deeper orange, similar to a butternut squash. Neither is as deeply colored as pumpkin or sweet potato.

Here are my squashes from this year and last year (2016 & 2015)

Cushaw 2016

Cushaw 2015

I normally get the green type because they are more commonly available. I tried a yellow one this year for the first time and it made an excellent pie. It has a somewhat milder flavor, but is plenty sweet. Really not much difference, but if I have a choice in the future, I’d select a green one.  Last year I put my cushaw in the car next to me in the passenger seat. It weighed enough to set off the seat belt alarm.

Like most squashes, the shoots, flowers, fruit, and seeds are all edible. I’ve never eaten any part other than the flesh, but I only recently learned that the seeds are considered the most important part for Mexican sauces. I’ll definitely keep the seeds next time. It produces a lot of them and they look very much like pumpkin seeds, so I presume they can be used in similar ways.

Cushaw pie

Cushaw Pie

The recipe I use is adapted from the New York Time Natural Foods Cookbook. It includes a pie crust recipe, but I usually just buy a refrigerated pie crust dough. The main differences between my recipe and theirs is that I use less honey and little to no milk. Whether using pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or squash (but especially with squash), there is usually enough liquid in the squash itself, along with the honey and eggs, that adding more liquid in really not necessary. In fact, for cushaws I usually take the defrosted pulp and set it in a strainer for a while to drain off some of the liquid. I have used almond milk when I thought it needed it. Coconut milk works well, too, but it does alter the flavor a bit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cushaw (makes several pies)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup honey
  • about 2 tsp pie spice (I like a lot, so I usually add a bit more cinnamon and a dash of ginger)
  • pie crust

Prepare the cushaw:

Cut off the stem and slice the neck into slabs about 1.5″ thick, then cut into half-moons. Ideally you want all your pieces to be roughly the same size so they’ll cook evenly. Once you get to the cavity,cut vertically in half and clean out the seeds. Be sure to keep the seeds to use later if you want. Slice into sections about 3″ square, or just any way you want as long as the pieces are all roughly equal. You want to put the skin side on the baking sheet to avoid burning the flesh, so keep that in minds when cutting.

You’re going to bake the squash, then remove the skins, then mash the pulp to be used in the pies. Spread the pieces on baking sheets. It will take at least two sheets to hold them all, and you may have to bake in shifts.

Bake the squash at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. You want it soft, but not brown. Once cool, clean off any burnt edges and use a paring knife to cut away the green rind. In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the squash into pulp. You can then put it in freezer bags measured 3-4 cups per pie, or go ahead and make your pie without freezing.

Making the puree

There is a lot of water in the cushaw pulp. I usually put it in a strainer to let it drain for an hour or so. The pulp is very fibrous, which is a bit unpleasant. You should use a blender to mix your ingredients and run it for a while on the puree setting to really smooth it out. Just toss in the eggs, honey, and spices with your pulp. Be sure to mix it up with a spoon or on a slow speed at first in order to get a reasonably liquidy consistency throughout. Otherwise the blender won’t work well. Watch the batter while it’s pureeing. If you still see fibrous clumps of any size at all, keep going.

Pour the batter into a pie crust (I use a glass pie pan with a store-bought refrigerated pie crust). Place into a preheated oven at 350 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely. I like it best refrigerated with whipped cream.

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