Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Bake a Squash

Baking a Winter Squash
My mother was here to visit recently and bought a light green winter squash for me at the local farmer's market.  I'm not sure what the variety name is, but my mom calls it the belly button squash, for when you turn it upside down, it has a distinct belly button.  The flesh was wonderful to work with!  Not stringy and needed no blender or food processor, the baked squash scooped out in a happy, just-right puree of its own.

Winter squash get their name from the tough outer skin, so when working with one of these, use a sturdy knife.  It is easy to prepare them for the table and other recipes, you can boil, microwave or bake them.  I prefer baking, as it is simple and in the fall, warm! The trickiest part is cutting them open. My mother once watched her grandma take an axe to a particularly stubborn Hubbard!  Cut the squash in half or quarters, whichever will fit on your baking sheet.  Scoop the seeds from the center and place the squash upside down on a greased baking sheet. I use my Pampered Chef stone, which cleans up no matter what I throw at it, but you can also line your sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.  Prick the outside skin many times with a fork.  Set the oven to 350 and bake for an hour, then check it.  It may take longer for a larger squash.  I baked this one for an hour and a half.  You are looking for the squash to be super soft.

When I turned this one over, it fell apart.  At this point, let the squash cool until you are comfortable handling it.  Use a spoon and scoop out the flesh.  If it is stringy, process it in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Texture is a matter of preference. Pumpkins are generally stringy, but Hubbard and Banana will be smoother.
  At this point, it is ready for the table with a bit of butter and brown sugar, or for the freezer.  I freeze my squash in 2 cup batches in freezer bags.  You can do what you like, but consider the size portions called for in your favorite recipes, or the size portions your family will consume at one meal.  I usually heat the squash straight from the freezer in the microwave.
You can try these recipes with your squash: Winter Squash Fritters, Squash Bars, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Cookies
When it cools off a bit more, I'll share Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin Soup. Do try substituting these more flavorful varieties for pumpkin! I think you will be pleased.

P.S.  After posting this, I again attended the farmer's market where we bought this squash, and the man that sold it to us was there.  He informed me that it is called a Sweetmeat squash.  Glad to know, it is my new favorite to work with!
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