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How the heck do I cook that? A guide to winter squash.

With our bumper crop of winter squash, we've received quite a few questions about how you prepare and eat the squash as well as how to store them. I'm here with some answers!

First the easy one: how to store.

There are a couple of ways to store squash depending on how you plan to use it.

If you want to keep it whole, find a cool dry place and it will keep for up to a year (sometimes longer but why?) or, you can prep it now and freeze. I've done both cubed pieces and pureed and both work equally well. All in all it's a pretty delicious way to have some freshness in the middle of winter.


Now: how to prepare.


We grew a couple different types of squash this year so I'll break it down by type.



Baby Blue Hubbard: These are the small version of the gigantic Blue Hubbards you probably know. Both have a tough blue-grey skin and, if you've ever tried to slice with a knife, a willingness to sever appendages.

Pro tip: Use gravity. I'm serious. Take the squash outside and smash it on the ground. It will crack and make the whole process a whole lot less dangerous. (I've heard you can put it in a plastic bag but I've not tried it and anyway, it doesn't stay on the ground very long.)

Once you've cracked the shell, scoop out the seeds, and put the whole thing (skin and all) in the oven. I usually bake at 350-375 depending on my mood, until the flesh is fork tender.

Then I let it cool for a bit and scoop out the guts. Throw in some butter (and brown sugar if you'd like) and it's a delicious side dish.


Acorn Squash: This is a favourite in my house. Much smaller than even the Baby Blue Hubbards, it can pretty easily be sliced with a knife. Once you scoop out the seeds, set the halves in the oven cut side up and, just like the Baby Blue Hubbard, bake until fork tender.

Acorn squash lends itself to being an edible bowl so you can absolutely fill it with rice, soup, ground meat, quinoa, or more simply butter or just brown sugar (and if you cut some slices almost to the skin, it lets the butter sink in a bit more).


Butternut: When cut, I think these look like banjos. They do slice pretty easily with sharp knife. Once you scoop out the seeds, just like the others: roast them up in the oven.




Pumpkins (which aren't actually a type of squash):

Did you pick up some white pumpkins from us this year?

Surprise: they're edible.

Unfortunately, they don't taste sweet or anything like pumpkin spice. But with the right addition of spices, you can have everything you need for your own pumpkin puree to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins.....

And I cook these the exact same way as the squash. Once they've cooled, just peel off the skin and run them through a food processor or blender then follow whatever recipe you choose that uses pumpkin puree.

(Bit of a warning: It will have more water than the canned stuff so you may want to adjust your recipe to account for that.)


Bonus round: Pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)

I love crunchy slightly salty foods. It's even better when I can make them from seeds so they're kind of healthy. What I didn't like was the disappointment of baking up the pumpkin seeds only to have them be crunchy but definitely lacking the salt.


I learned the trick a few years ago: Brining or boiling in salted water.

Not only does this give you crunchier seeds once you roast them, it also lets some of the salt get through the outer shell and actually flavour the seed.

It doesn't take a ton of salt either, just a tablespoon or two per cup of seeds. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 or so minutes.

Drain well. Then coat with olive oil and your seasoning of choice, then roast for 20-30 minutes at 375F, stirring occasionally.


And so ends my cooking blog. Tune in next week for more tips about how I successfully mix yoghurt and strawberry jam for breakfast. #Imnotacook

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