Similar to the pumpkin pie, Cushaw Pie is a Southern Appalachian tradition and is made with the Cushaw Squash. What in the world is a cushaw, you ask? Well, I know you’ve seen them, but perhaps you didn’t know they were edible. Let me tell you about them…
This is a cushaw:
The cushaw is grown from an heirloom seed that is sometimes known as “Tennessee Sweet Potato.” It is a prolific when grown, is resistant to vine borers, and grows well in hot, dry climates. Since it’s not as popular as many of the winter squashes, such as Acorn or Butternut, you don’t see it as often in markets.
These winter squashes are often seen adorning lawns and porches during Autumn along with pumpkins and gourds, hay bales and scarecrows. While they are certainly beautiful in a Fall arrangement, they are edible and they make a fabulous pie.
Here in Townsend in the Autumn, the businesses gear up for the annual Fall Festival and Old Timer’s Day by decorating the outsides of their buildings with scenes like I described. So, when we first opened our shop, I decided I needed to do something a little bit different from the normal display (who’s surprised?).
I had a local welder build a cornucopia with rebar rings that graduated from five feet in diameter for the front ring and tapering down over ten feet in length to a curled up end; I then covered the frame with chicken wire. I took corn stalks and wired them to the chicken wire to form the “basket” of the cornucopia, then had hay bales and mums and pumpkins and cushaws spilling out the front. It was always a gorgeous display.
While many of the fall displays were the target of local kids on Halloween night who would smash the pumpkins, our display was never touched. That is, until the second year and every subsequent year we had the arrangement. The second year I assembled our array, I looked out the window of the store one day and noticed a car pull up. This wasn’t unusual since many people would stop to take photographs of the cornucopia. What was unusual was the darling little old couple who got out of their car, walked to the front of the display, and loaded their arms with cushaws. And drove away.
I was flabbergasted! But, I figured if they wanted the cushaws that much, they could just have them. I mentioned this oddity to a friend who told me, “Oh, they probably took them to make Cushaw Pie!” Knock me over with a feather! I had no idea they were edible!
So, every year after that, I bought extra cushaws for the display. I’d wait until the little old couple would rob the cornucopia of the cushaws, then I’d add more back to it. We had a nice deal going, I think. They never took the second batch. *wink*
Last month, my friend Donna hosted a gathering for a mutual friend who is ill; she decorated the pavilion where the event was held with pumpkins and gourds, hay bales, scarecrows and a single cushaw. I was the beneficiary of the cushaw at the end of the event (along with a white pumpkin which you’ll see in another post). So, I decided I needed to make a cushaw pie.
Cushaw get large, so the one Donna gave me had enough “meat” for three pies. When I seeded and peeled the cushaw, I cubed the meat, took enough for one pie, then I took the other cubes and put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and set that in the freezer for an hour. Once the cubes were frozen, I put them in freezer ziplocks and put them back in the freezer for later use. The light golden color of the meat is gorgeous and can be used in savory dishes, too. So don’t let any of it go to waste!
To prepare the pie, the cushaw cubes are boiled until tender, then drained and mashed. The mashed cushaw is then mixed with the rest of the pie ingredients and placed in a pie crust and baked. It’s as simple as that.
The pie itself is a very rich custard-style pie that is absolutely delicious. The flavour, while being similar to pumpkin pie, is lighter, milder, creamier and more subtle than pumpkin. So, if you have a cushaw sitting on your porch or lawn as part of your Fall decorations, make this pie! Cushaw can also be found in many farmer’s markets and occasionally at chain grocery stores with the gourds.
If you’re looking for something special to add to your holiday menu, find a cushaw and make this pie. You just won’t believe the difference between cushaw and pumpkin.
p.s.: I took the scraps of pie crust dough I had remaining and used small Autumn leaf cutters to make garnishes for the pie. I placed them on a piece of foil, sprinkled on some turbinado sugar and baked them for about 15 minutes along side the pie.
- Single pie crust recipe for a 9" deep dish pie pan
- 2½ cups cushaw cubes from seeded, peeled squash, boiled until tender but not mushy, drained and mashed
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (I used organic)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 4 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Place the cooked cushaw in the bowl of a mixer or food processor.
- Add all the other ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a prepared pie crust.
- Place the pie into the oven and bake for 35-50 minutes, or until the custard is not quite set (it will still be jiggly in the middle and will fully set as it cools).
- You may need to put foil, or a pie crust shield over the crust at about 30 minutes to keep it from browning too much.
- When the custard is set (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or lightly touch the top to test for firmness), remove the pie from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Serve with your favourite whipped topping. I have provided a recipe for Chantilly Cream below.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Place heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until soft peaks begin to form.
- Cover and refrigerate until serving.