Monday, October 7, 2013

Preserving Winter Squash

We're nearing the end of my squash preserving frenzy and I thought I would share some tips on how to store it so that you will have plenty of your favorite locally-grown squash to enjoy through the winter and spring months.

Squash Pancakes - Yum!

Winter squash is high in carotenoids and antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties.  It's packed with Vitamin A and research is showing that it may play a role in cancer prevention.

It is extremely important that you only consume organic winter squash because it can pull contaminants out of the soil.  If you find a good source for locally-grown organic squash, make sure to stock up on it and start preserving.

The wonderful thing about squash is that it can last 3-6 months before rotting if stored properly (temperature controlled).  If you plan to keep your squash whole after harvest, make sure not to consume any that may end up bruised during storage, because once bruised they are susceptible to rot and bacterial growth.

Canning squash in chunks is possible with a pressure canner, but you are not supposed to can the puree due to its density.  Of course, it is possible to can the puree, since it is sold that way in stores, but it is not something I would advise messing with at home, as the chance for food-borne illness is higher with dense foods like pumpkin.

If you have the freezer space, the best way to preserve squash is in puree form.  It's extremely easy!

First, cook your squash.  I prefer to just throw it whole into a stockpot full of water and let it simmer until cooked.  If you want to soak and consume the seeds, you'll need to slice and scoop them out before cooking, as the heat will make them unsproutable.  Then you can steam or bake your sliced squash.

Once cooked, slice the squash, scoop and toss the guts, and then throw the meat into your food processor, blending until it is the desired texture.  Pureed squash is a wonderful staple to have on hand in your fridge, as it can be added to soups, grain-free baked goods, and casseroles for an added vitamin punch.

Use a dry-erase marker on your jars for labeling

I prefer to freeze my squash in ice cube trays.  One cube equals approximately two tablespoons, making it easy to add the desired amount of squash to recipes.  If you were to freeze it in a large solid chunk, you would have to thaw and measure for future use.  The ice cubes also make convenient baby food serving sizes.  Just pull out 1-2 cubes the night before and in the morning you'll have thawed baby food ready to go.  You can even throw them in a mesh feeder to give your teething baby some relief and nutrition at the same time.

Once your cubes freeze, transfer them to plastic baggies or whatever glass freezer storage system you like to use.  It will last about a year in the freezer.

Squash seeds, if you are able to eat them, are a really nutrient-dense snack.  They are high in unsaturated fat and protein, zinc, diverse forms of Vitamin E, and other anti-oxidants.  Remember, if you are planning to consume any seeds, you must first soak them to break down the enzyme inhibitors and phytates that make them hard to digest.  Just place your seeds in a container of water, add salt, and let it sit for at least seven hours before draining and dehydrating/cooking. 

If you would like to sprout your pumpkin seeds to add even more nutrients to this already nutrient-dense food, drain them after the initial soaking, let them sit and then rinse/drain again every 8 hours until you see the sprouts forming.  They will look like little white tails.

I prefer to dehydrate my pumpkin seeds in the oven.  I lightly salt them and place them on a cookie sheet on the lowest setting my oven provides (170) for a few hours or until they are crispy.

These goodies never last long around here!

So stop decorating with those delicious pumpkins, gourds and squash, and start eating and preserving them.  Winter is just around the corner!


1 comment:

Nowheymama said...

I usually steam the seeds but I like the soaking idea--I can just walk away!