Cinderella pumpkins are a type of winter squash with a mild, sweet flavor and moist texture that makes them great for soups, sauces, purees, and curries. They can be roasted, baked and steamed, and used for ornamental purposes.
What Are Cinderella Pumpkins?
Cinderella pumpkins are a large, flat member of the squash family (Cucurbitaceae) with a sweet, edible flesh that is useful for cooking and baking. They are widely cultivated in France, where they are known as Rouge Vif D’Etampes, which refers to its bright red color and the town of Etampes, in the Île-de-France region in the north-central part of the country where they originate. They were introduced to the United States in the 19th century, where they later came to be called Cinderella pumpkins, since their shape resembles that of the pumpkin depicted in the 1950 Disney film.
A winter squash, the Cinderella pumpkin has large, deep ribs and commonly reaches weights of up to 20 pounds or more. Its turns from yellow to bright red when it is ripe, and the flesh is orange-yellow. They are sometimes referred to as "cheese pumpkins," although this term refers not to its flavor, but rather its flat shape, which somewhat resembles a wheel of cheese. They are also sometimes called "soup pumpkins."
Cinderella pumpkins are a cultivar of the species Cucurbita maxima, which can be traced back to South America. Its thick, tender flesh is suited for pureeing as for soups, as well as gratins, casseroles, jams, and chutneys. Some cooks find it too watery for making pies and other baked goods, but if drained properly, it can work for these types of preparations as well.
Cinderella pumpkins spend 95 days on the vine, followed by another 10 to 14 days of curing, which helps the shell harden and thus prevent spoilage. That curing time also ripens and improves flavor.
How to Cook With Cinderella Pumpkins
Cinderella pumpkins are big: A 15-pound pumpkin will yield a gallon of soup, which is arguably the best use for them. Because of their higher water content, they might not be the best choice for making pies, since the excess moisture can seep out during cooking and make the crust soggy. But for dishes where the extra moisture is not an issue, like in soups, stews, and curries, they are a great choice. Roasting helps to cook off excess moisture and enhance the pumpkin's natural sweetness.
One trick to cooking with Cinderella pumpkins is cook, puree, and then drain the puree before using. Simply line a large colander with paper towels and scoop your pureed pumpkin into it, and let it drain for at least 30 minutes, or longer. You can place a bowl underneath if you're curious to see how much water you're extracting; otherwise, just let it drain into the sink.
To roast Cinderella pumpkins, slice it into wedges using the outer ridges as a guide, then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Lightly brush the pumpkin flesh with olive oil, season with salt, and roast in a 400 F oven for about 40 minutes, turning once during that time. When the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork, it is done.
What Do They Taste Like?
Cinderella pumpkins have a mild, sweet flavor with a smooth, creamy texture. When roasted, they develop additional sweetness as the starches caramelize and turn to sugar.
Cinderella Pumpkin Recipes
You can substitute Cinderella pumpkin for practically any recipe that calls for winter squash, including butternut, acorn, and kabocha.
Where to Buy Cinderella Pumpkins
Cinderella pumpkins can be found at farmers' markets and supermarket produce departments during the autumn and winter months.
A whole Cinderella pumpkin will keep for up to 6 months when stored in a cool place away from sunlight. The best conditions are temperatures around 50 F with humidity of around 60 percent. Colder temperatures than that will cause it to soften and rot. Once it is sliced, it will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Cooked pumpkin will last 2 to 3 days in the fridge, and pureed pumpkin can last 3 to 6 months in the freezer.
A 100-gram serving of Cinderella pumpkin is about 90 percent water, and provides 34 calories, 1 gram of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber along with negligible fat. It is also a source of vitamin A and beta carotene.
Cinderella vs. Fairytale Pumpkin
Because of their names, and their similar shapes, Cinderella pumpkins are often confused with fairytale pumpkins. Fairytale pumpkins, also known as Musquée de Provence, are similar shape to Cinderella pumpkins, but they have an orange-brown color as opposed to the bright red-orange color of Cinderellas. Additionally, fairytale have a richer, more buttery flavor than Cinderella, and they're less watery, making them better choices for baking.