How to Freeze Butternut Squash Puree

Today was the last outdoor Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s always a bittersweet day. The DCFM is the largest producer only farmers’ market in the nation. It’s a beautiful affair every saturday, as anyone who has been to it can attest. It stretches around the entire Capitol square in downtown Madison.

The “sweet” part of calling the last outdoor market of the season “bittersweet” is simply that we usually find some great deals. Today’s biggest score was an incredible bounty of winter squash. Twenty five pounds of squash for only $8 to be exact.

We already had the pie pumpkins and a couple of acorn squashes, but the rest we got today!

We’ve been eating quite a bit of acorn squash this fall. It’s such an easy, nutritious, comforting food. We just chop one in half and roast it in the oven. Sometimes we stuff it with something yummy, but we usually just eat them with butter and salt. Mmmm. Hard to beat after a long day at work, especially when it’s chilly outside.

But today, I want to tell you about a super-dee-duper easy and lovely way to use butternut squash. Most winter squashes will keep for a few to several months if stored properly in a cool, dry, dark space. That’s one of the many reasons I love them so. But it’s also nice to have some pureed squash ready to roll for using in pies, soups, baking, or just on its own as a side dish. You can buy canned butternut squash in the store, and it’s relatively okay tasting, but it has nothing on the complex flavor of homemade puree. No contest. And the store-bought kind is more expensive. And you have more waste. And did I mention it’s not as good? The only thing it has going for it is convenience, but it truly is not that hard to make you own. So. Maybe I will convert you today.

HOMEMADE OVEN ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE

This same basic recipe can be used for most winter squash, including pumpkins and acorn squashes (pictured above). Simply adjust roasting times as necessary.

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Rinse butternut squash under cool water.

3.Cut the squash in half lengthwise. I do this by first cutting a small slice off of the top or bottom of the squash to give me a flat, stable bottom, and then I just carefully press my knife down the middle.

Like so.

4. Scoop out the seeds and scrape out the stringy membrane. DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY! Put it in a bowl off to the side so you can make awesome roasted squash seeds!

5. Place squash cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet or roasting pan.

Oh, and check out my apple butter that I didn’t tell you about because I took a little break from this little blog.

6. Put on center rack of oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. This really can vary, so I always start checking around 35 minutes. Stick a knife right into the squash. If it slides through the skin and into the flesh easily, you’re good to go. Also, it should look all golden and brown like this:

Yum!

7. Give it a good 10 minutes or so until the squash is cool enough to handle. The skin peels off quite easily, so you don’t even need to scoop out the squash. Just pull off the skin.

8. Put your delicious squash into a food processor or blender and puree it in batches until silky smooth. You could also use an immersion/stick blender here. Occasionally check in on the squash and push it down to ensure all the pieces get pureed well.

9. That’s it! You’re done. Just scoop the puree into freezer bags, label, and store flat. I portioned mine out into 3 bags of 2 cup portions and one larger bag with 4 cups of puree.

10. Don’t forget to let your good, patient dog lick the bowls and spoons (no knives or blades!).

Now, about those seeds. After you’ve scooped them into a bowl, give them a good rinse and pick off all of the membrane. Then, throw them on a baking sheet or pan with a bit of butter or oil and seasonings of your choice (garlic salt is easy and delicious, but curry type spices, assorted herbs, and cayenne pepper are also great options). Throw the pan in the oven with the squash, and you should be good to go in less than 20 minutes. Just keep them in there until they are golden and crispy. They will crisp up a bit more once they’ve cooled, but they should be fairly crunchy coming out of the oven. You can store them in an airtight container for a week or so, but ours never last much longer than an hour.

So that’s that. Now you have delicious, homemade squash puree and a great snack of roasted seeds. Don’t forget to put the skin in your compost. There is really no waste on this (except the foil if you use it). Feels good, looks good, tastes good, and makes the house smell yummy! And the best way to ensure you don’t ever “go back” to store-bought is to make sure you always have some ready to use in the freezer. Plan ahead, and you’ll be eating better and saving money in no time.

To close, here’s what’s going on in our freezer currently:

Sweet corn, butternut squash puree, WI cranberries, black & pinto beans,  and pear sauce– all homemade! The one store-bought item is that bag of soycutash from Trader Joe’s. Love that stuff.

Post by Amanda

A Late September Madison Saturday in Photos

Today’s delicious finds at the Dane County Farmers’ Market: last round of sweet corn, white thai eggplants, purple carrots, bountiful hot & sweet peppers, green onions, leeks, beets (with greens!).

Pretty, pretty peppers.

Beautiful veggies, beautiful pit bull, beautiful weather. Everything I ever wanted.

Smile

And Kiss!

Our tomato plants are still full of goods. We’re hoping they ripen up quickly this week while it’s a little warmer!

Thyme’s still standing tall.

Our precious elephant ear is finally back on the mend.  And it’s lovely.

Zinnia Love

Zinnia Love Forever.

Relaxin’

And strikin’ poses.

Time for lunch.

Post by Amanda

Jalapeños en Escabeche

So!  With all of the lovely house things happening, I have yet to do one of my most beloved summer activities: canning.  Putting up the harvest for the winter months has become so dear to me.  I come from a long line of food preservers; however, I sadly learned precious little about food preservation from my Mennonite grandmothers.  My sadness over that missed opportunity kept me from canning for a while until I decided to just teach myself a few years back.  I’m still a newbie who gets scared and stressed about the whole process, but it has come to mean so much to me that I’m determined to stick with it, learn from my mistakes, and power through.  The connection I feel to my ancestors, the farm, and food when I’m canning is a feeling that is otherwise hard to come by in my modern American life, and I refuse to give that up just because canning takes time and is much less convenient than buying commercially canned goods.

Since our jalapeño plant was bursting with gorgeous dark green peppers, I decided to try my hand at a favorite Mexican condiment: Jalapeños en Escabeche.  A staple on the Mexican table, these pickled Jalepeños are usually joined by onions, carrots, garlic, and herbs in the jar.  Sometimes cauliflower.  And I LOVE cauliflower.  So after some recipe research, we settled on a game plan, harvested what we could from our garden, and made a quick trip to the farmers’ market for the rest.

Pretty, pretty plant!

Here’s the basics (slightly adapted from here):

Jalapeños en Escabeche 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb jalapeño peppers (we got 15.9 oz from the garden!  success!)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, thickly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced diagonally
  • florets from half a cauliflower
  • 1.5 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 springs fresh oregano
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

From our garden: jalapeños and herbs
From the Farmers’ Market: garlic, onions, carrots
From the grocery: vinegar, olive oil, pickling salt, sugar, bay leaves, cauliflower

Steps:

1 Wash peppers, leaving the stems intact. Cut an X into each pepper so the brine will penetrate and do its pickling magic.

I realize now that these X’s are usually cut in the tips of the peppers, but oh well…

2 Heat oil in a large pot. Add the peppers, onions, carrots, cauliflower, and garlic. Heat over medium for 10 minutes, occasionally turning.

3 Add the vinegar, salt, sugar, and herbs and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Peppers need to be fully cooked for safety in this recipe.  They’re cooked when they are a dull, olive color like below.

4 Pack veggies into 5 pint-sized sterilized jars. Top with the brine, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace, and seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Filling jars.

The aroma is invigorating.

Lanny always does the honors of making sure all the air bubbles are released before we put the lids on.

Sitting in a quiet corner of the counter to cool for 24 hours.

I’m a little less than excited about how mushy this recipe appears to be as I love a good toothy escabeche, but we’ll see how it goes.  There was about a half a pint extra which we sampled instead of canning.  It’s obviously not pickled yet, but Oh My Is it Delicious.  I also sampled a raw jalapeño when we were picking them this morning and WOWZA are these peppers ever spicy.  Jalapeños can vary greatly in spiciness levels, but usually tend to be a bit on the milder side.  Well with the crazy heat we’ve had this year, these suckers are HOT.  My lips are still tingling.

I’ll be sure to report back when we break open a jar of these this winter after coming in from shoveling piles of snow off the driveway!

Post by Amanda