Cooking with Your Harvest of Winter Squash

Reader Contribution by Sheryl Campbell
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The abundant blessing of winter squash

Winter squash provide some of the most interesting cooking opportunities of all the vegetables. That’s because each variety of squash tastes different, and performs differently in the kitchen. Your fall garden gave you an abundance of storage squash and now you’re wondering how to use them. Let’s take a look at the differences between types, and recipes I use with the varieties that I grow.

All about Squash

All squash are in the Cucurbita genus. The main species of cucurbits are pepo, maxima, and moschata:

  1. pepo: acorn squash, delicata, and some specialty pumpkins
  2. maxima: buttercup, Hubbard, kabocha, giant pumpkins
  3. moschata: butternut, most pumpkins

Storage times for different species of squash will often determine when you cook with them. All varieties of C. pepo will store in cool, dry environments for 2-3 months. These are the first varieties to cook with in the late fall and early winter months.

C.maxima and C.moschata varieites will need to be stored for a month or two in order to reach maximum sweetness. They store well for 4-6 months depending on variety. Plan your meals around these golden orange beauties throughout the winter and into spring.

Choosing Which Squash to Grow and Store

Since my garden produces so many other types of vegetables in the fall that need to be eaten sooner, I’ve chosen to only grow the longer storing winter squash. The recipes I cook throughout the winter reflect the unique flavors and textures of those varieties.

North Georgia Candy Roaster is a C. maxima squash shaped like an enormous 10-15 pound banana with a blue tip. It maintains its superior eating quality up to five months with proper storage. It is the only winter squash I’m aware of that mashes itself while roasting! This is a decided advantage when you want to serve a sweet mashed squash dish. Simply slice in half long ways, roast covered, scrape into a bowl, add brown sugar, salt, butter, and serve.

Greek Red Squash, C.maxima, is a long-necked, reddish-tan fruit filled with sweet, deep orange flesh that’s richly flavored. The flesh cooks quickly so it’s important to cut cooking times whether boiling or roasting. This variety works well in sweet dishes, or savory ones that need a sweet balance.

Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash are a very long storing C. moschata variety. These are my go-to squash for savory dishes, or for Sage Roasted Squash Cubes. To make these, peel and dice the squash, then toss them in olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and rubbed sage. Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

 3 Tasty Winter Squash Recipes

My basement shelves are heavily loaded with squash which will star in meal after meal throughout the next 5 months. In addition to the simple ways to prepare listed above, the recipes below are some of my family’s favorite ways to savor these hearty garden delights.

Candy Roaster Polenta

One year I was served a pumpkin mash polenta that was tasty but missing something. Pondering the problem it became obvious that a change in squash type could add more sweetness to the dish, while the addition of smoked Gruyere cheese could punch the flavor profile.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup stone ground corn meal
  • 1 ½ cups cooked and mashed North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp. course ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded smoked Gruyere cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Combine water, salt, and corn meal in a buttered casserole, stir well. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven.
  2. Stir in squash, sour cream, pepper, nutmeg, and half of each cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
  3. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheeses. Broil for 5 minutes.
  4. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Greek Red Squash Curry

Jere and Emilee Gettle’s The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook introduced me to innovative ways of using my harvest. Their Butternut Curry Recipe got my creative juices flowing a few years ago. Following is my rendition in which I’ve changed up several ingredients. My version has a brightened taste from the lime juice in which I routinely freeze chopped Thai basil from the garden.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 large sweet peppers, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 6 cups Red Greek Squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups V-8 juice
  • 14 oz. coconut milk
  • 1 T. chicken bouillon
  • 1 ½ tsp. grated ginger root
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 2 T. hot curry paste
  • 1 ice cube of fresh lime juice packed with chopped Thai basil

Directions

  1. Chop onion, peppers, and garlic; saute in olive oil for 5 minutes
  2. Cook cubed squash in boiling water for 5 minutes
  3. Drain squash and mix with vegetable saute
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to just starting to boil. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld
  5. Serve over cooked jasmine rice

Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash and Sage Risotto

I’ve become a big fan of risotto. What other recipe allows you to use a scant 1/3 cup of wine and then spend the next half hour sharing the rest of the bottle with friends while you gently stir your food. A good friend taught me the importance of vigorously incorporating lots of cheese and butter into the finished product. My garden taught me to add mouthwatering vegetables to the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 T. butter
  • 12-15 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 pound Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. mild olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup Prosecco
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 T. butter, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Melt 1 T. butter in a skillet and toss in the fresh sage leaves. Toast until crispy and drain on paper towels.
  2. Toss the squash cubes with oil, kosher salt, and rubbed sage; spread on a cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes
  3. Bring stock to a boil in a saucepan
  4. Meanwhile, saute onion in a large skillet in 2 T. each of butter and olive oil
  5. Add Arborio rice to the onion and stir to coat
  6. Turn heat to medium high; add Prosecco and stir until evaporated
  7. Add hot stock one ladle-full at a time, stirring each time until it is almost absorbed
  8. Once rice is softened and all stock mostly absorbed (about 20 minutes), add 4 T.diced butter and Parmesan cheese, beating it vigorously until rich and creamy
  9. Gently stir in the roasted squash
  10. Top with crispy sage leaves and serve immediately

Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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