I always enjoy the relaxed pace that comes to a gardener’s life at this point in the year. As the garden starts to empty out and be put to bed for the winter, you’re no longer scrambling to use all your beautiful microgreens before they wilt or can a trillion pints of tomatoes before they go bad. Instead, you can hunker down and cook when you feel like it, using up carrots, potatoes, onions or other other garden produce that will happily hang around in your root cellar until it’s time to use it. With that idea in mind, I chose winter squash as the subject of this month’s seasonal recipe round-up.
The first step to making delicious use of your winter squash is to know all the different varieties and what they’re best for. The Luna Cafe has a super handy primer to the various winter squashes, and I recommend taking a browse through it to make sure that you can tell your Kabochas from your Kuris.
Northwest Edible Life has a great post about how to store your winter squash. While some of the more sturdy and robust squashes (I’m looking at you, butternut) can last for months in most room temperature conditions, you can extend the shelf life of your squash by quite awhile if you treat them right. The basic idea is that you wipe them down with a bleach and water solution (I’ve used vinegar with good results as well) and store them somewhere cool and dry with good air circulation. It’s pretty easy to do, and can help even the more perishable squashes (like delicata) last for ages.
If you’re running out of storage space in your garage or root cellar, freezing winter squash can be a great option. Depending on how you plan to use them, you can either freeze them raw (peeled, cut into chunks and frozen on a baking sheet before being chucked into freezer bags or containers) or cooked (steamed, boiled or roasted, then pureed works the best). The Kitchn has a great post illustrating these two methods.
Unfortunately, winter squash is too sweet to be water bath canned on its own, but if you have access to a pressure canner you can put up lots of cheerful looking jars of squash for the cold months. I’m especially fond of this recipe from Canning Homemade!, as the squash chunks are canned in soup stock. This makes a really delicious soup base, or just some flavourful squash chunks for whatever else you’d like to use them for. I like how easy and versatile this recipe is.
One cool way of getting around the water bath canning problem for winter squash is to make it into a chutney. Chutney recipes are fairly tart, so you end up adding enough vinegar to balance the acidity level to a point where you can can without a pressure canner. This recipe from Healthy Green Kitchen for winter squash chutney looks mega delicious, as well as pretty simple — you pretty much just cook the ingredients down until they are soft, then can ‘em up. Plus, you can use pretty much any variety of winter squash for the recipe, which is handy.
My favourite go-to recipe for squash is soup, because it’s so easy and versatile. I usually just halve a squash, seed it, and throw it in the oven to roast, because I find it easier than peeling and chopping it raw. Once it’s soft, I just saute some onions and add soup stock and salt and pepper. It’s really good made as simply as that, but you can definitely add a billion other ingredients to vary the flavour. Some of my favourites are: chestnuts (I buy them vacuum packed at the grocery store and puree them with the soup), apples or pears (peeled, seeded and chopped and added to the pot when the broth goes in), with tomato (dump in a can of crushed or diced tomatoes), or with coconut milk and Indian spices.
This butternut squash mac and cheese recipe from A Veggie Venture looks really good. It looks like a fantastic way to make your winter comfort food a bit healthier but keep the traditional mac and cheese taste mostly intact.
This roasted squash and chile vinaigrette recipe from Gourmet looks pretty boss as well. Roasted squash is one of the most ridiculously easy ways to prepare squash, but it can definitely get a bit boring towards the end of the winter. The chile vinaigrette looks simple to make but would effectively make your squash pretty mofo tasty.
There are a ton more individual recipes that I’ve come across that look amazing, but it’s impossible to post them all, unfortunately. Instead, I’d recommend checking out either of these great recipe collections:
How to Eat Half a Squash for Dinner from The Kitchn has a ton of great recipes for doing just that. They range from flexible stuffing recipes to warm salads to simply just slicing a squash in half, roasting it, and filling it with leftover soup. There are some rad resources here, both for specific recipes and generally tasty templates.
Although it’s completely pumpkin-centric, Serious Eats’ feature on 35 Pumpkin Recipes We Love has lots of recipes that could be adapted to other kinds of squash. Pumpkin cheddar crackers, gluten-free pumpkin bread, and pumpkin ravioli with brown butter are just some of them — there is a huge variety of all different kinds of recipes, so you’re sure to find something you dig.