Growing up in the South, pumpkin pie wasn’t on the line up for our autumn menus because we ate sweet potato pie. Pumpkins were for carving and decorating for fall, and I never really gave it much thought until I first ate pumpkin pie as a teenager. I couldn’t believe I had been missing out on something so fabulous. Sweet potato pie is okay, but I much prefer that particular vegetable fried, baked, casseroled (topped with pecans, brown sugar and butter), or as biscuits. But pumpkin pie…it was an amazing discovery, right up there with bread pudding.
I began making them to take to every family gathering anywhere near fall, using canned pumpkin and condensed milk per the recipe on the can of Kroger pumpkin. It is still the recipe I use, but now I often cook a fresh pumpkin. To be perfectly honest, I can’t tell that there is a bit of difference between fresh or canned for the outcome, it is just fun and rewarding to do it from scratch, plus it is free if you grow your own…and if you grow your own, you will probably come up with lots of other really good things to make with pumpkin, because you will have so much…especially if you grow neck pumpkins. These guys are really big squash!
Neck pumpkins seem to be most well known around Pennsylvania and from what I can find, most people have never heard of or seen one. We were first given seed by my father-in-law in Kentucky and we planted them without knowing what they would look like. I was absolutely amazed by them. They produced huge vines with at least 5 on every runner and the fruit themselves were surprisingly large.
They are really called neck pumpkins because the aforementioned necks are solid meat that yields about 10 pounds of cooked pumpkin, but most of them fit so neatly around your own neck that it is easy to forget that. They are used commercially for packed canned pumpkin and make the best pie of any pumpkin I have used. These giants weigh in at 20 – 30 lbs on average, so when you cook one, you can make a pie, some soup, and maybe even some muffins.
I was inspired this year to make soup after a trip to Panera Bread with my sister-in-law, while we were at an out of town ladies retreat. However, I am sad to say that our crop this year was very small (both in the number produced on the two vines that survived and in size), due to the massive amounts of rain we had, so I am down to only 3 to last me until next year!