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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Freezing Butternut Squash

Winter squash is always a bargain in season!  It's high in nutritious and taste but low in calories and price.  Just before we left for Florida, one of the kids brought me two large, home grown butternut squash, a type of winter squash.   Winter squash keeps nicely in a cold, dark location but I decided to freeze the squash instead.  Part of the reasoning was for later convenience but the main reason was not leaving any food that may spoil while we were away. 

preparing the butternut squash for baking
Winter squash have hard outer rinds that many find difficult to remove.  This can be particularly problematic for those with motility issues.  As a result, winter squash is often passed over for another vegetable that is easier to prepare.  There are three work around for cooking winter squash that do not involve peeling.  They do however involve cutting the squash in half and cleaning out the seeds.  The squash can then be covered and baked or cooked in the microwave oven.  My personal preference is steaming on the stove top followed by baking larger quantities in the oven or on the grill.

I uses a chef's knife to cut the butternut squash in half starting at the top on one side then slowly working towards the base of the squash.  Once I reached the base, I continued cutting up the other side.  The seeds are found inside the round base of the squash.  I scooped out the seeds and set aside to be cleaned then air dried for next year's garden.  Of note, saving seeds from produce even store bought is one way to accumulate free seeds for the garden. 

cooked butternut squash
I wrapped the squash pieces in aluminum foil.  I placed the prepared squash on a baking sheet then baked at 350°F until the squash was soft to slight pressure.  When the squash was cooked (pictured), I removed it from the oven and removed the foil.  I then scooped the cooked squash from the skin, leaving the skin for the food disposal or compost. 

This method really is a no mess, no fuss method for cooking squash.  It lends itself nicely for cooking larger winter squash or larger quantities however, I often use this method to cook acorn squash.  When cooking acorn squash, I add a little butter and salt in the cavity.  I didn't add butter or salt for this batch of butternut squash so it would be more versatile for later use.

draining the butternut squash
Wrapping in foil then baking essentially steams the squash in it's own juices.  Even though no water was added, there was a fair amount of liquid draining from the squash (pictured).  There is no reason why the juice cannot be left in the cooked squash for freezing but it will give more watery results when thawed and reheated.  I drained the squash simply by pushing the squash to one corner of the casserole dish then raising that corner slightly allowing the liquid to drain by itself.  I reserved the liquid to freeze separately.  The liquid can be added to soups and stews for added flavour.  Once the squash was drained it was ready for freezing.
butternut squash ready for freezer
There are several ways to package squash for the freezer.  My preferred methods are individual serving sizes (4 oz muffin cups) and meal size containers.  I froze this batch of buttermilk squash in meal size containers.  The containers were 4 c (32 oz/946 ml) Ziploc containers with screw on lids.  I filled the containers leaving about an inch headspace.  This space allows for the expansion of the squash when frozen.  There were four servings per container.  That is a good yield for one butternut squash.  The squash in the glass bowl went into the refrigerator for use the following day.

Winter squash will be plentiful and low cost for another month so I plan to freeze a bit more.  It can also be dehydrated and canned.  When dehydrating the squash is shredded then steamed lightly before dehydrating.  It can then be hydrated much the same as you would instant potatoes or the dried flakes can be added as an ingredient in dishes for extra flavour.  Winter squash cannot be safely canned as a purée because it is too thick for proper heat penetration during process.  It can be safely canned in chunks processed in a pressure canner.  Be sure to put up plenty of this budget stretching, versatile and delicious vegetable!

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