Although winter squash is available for most of the year, certain varieties are only here in the fall. Learn how to freeze winter squash for food storage.
Pumpkin is my favorite winter squash. I love it so much that I could eat it all year long. Sadly, in today’s society, it seems that it’s only acceptable to talk about pumpkin during the months of September through November. People sure look at you strangely if you tout your pumpkin recipes in May or June!
Unless you grow it yourself, you can only get fresh pumpkin in the grocery store for a limited time. By the end of November, those babies will be gone! Not so with winter squash. The varieties of acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash are available almost year around. Learn to identify 15 winter squash varieties at Baldor Food
Ideally, if you are going to preserve fresh pumpkins, the sugar pumpkin variety is the best. Get them when they are at their peak in the fall and process them for food storage for the rest of the year. This is the time when they are super inexpensive and readily available.
Preserving fresh pumpkin doesn’t keep me from purchasing canned pumpkin entirely, but it does give me quite a bit of my own to use. The best methods for preserving squash are dehydrating, canning in cubes, and the easiest is to freeze winter squash.
Winter Squash Facts:
- Squash is a fruit, although most people think of it as a vegetable
- It’s not safe to can squash puree via any method. The puree is so dense that it is likely that the center of the jar will not heat enough to kill bacteria.
- You can use squash flour in place of wheat flour in baking. Replace it one-cup for-one-cup in many recipes.
- The flowers that bloom on a squash vine are edible
- IMHO, Costco makes the best pumpkin pie around. According to Simplemost.com, over 5.3 million perfectly-spiced pumpkin pies were sold out of Costco bakeries in 2017, with 1.75 million flying off the shelves in the three days prior to Thanksgiving alone. They use a mixture of pumpkin and winter squash in the recipe.
What I do with Fresh Winter Squash
- Turn it into a puree– get the directions.
- Save the seeds for snacking– why waste them!
- Make muffins and other healthy breakfast recipes.
- Save the seeds for planting next year. You can even save seeds from organic squash purchased from the grocery store.
- Dehydrate the puree and turn it into flour. It’s the same as the directions for sweet potatoes.
- Use that flour for making pancakes. Yum!
Luckily, these ideas work for all varieties of most varieties of winter squash so you can also cook, preserve, and use Pumpkin, Delicata, Butternut, Hubbard, and Acorn squash the same way.
How to Freeze Winter Squash
There are several options for freezing pumpkin and other squash varieties. First, you can cook and turn it into a puree, then place it in labeled freezer bags. This is perhaps the easiest way.
If you like to use chunked squash in soup or in a sauté, the best way to preserve them is also by freezing.
- Wash the squash to make sure that you remove any dirt from the surface of the fruit. Cut off or shorten the stem.
- The skin on most winter squashes is not edible, so remove it by peeling with a sharp knife. Scoop out and discard the pulp. Save the seeds for roasting.
- Cut the squash into one-inch slices or cubes.
- Using a suitable size stockpot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash slices or cubes and place them in the boiling water for three minutes.
- Pour the blanched squash into a colander and allow it to drain. The purpose of blanching is to precook the fruit and stop the enzymes from working. Expect the squash pieces will still be hard.
- Pour the hot, drained squash into a large bowl that has been filled with ice and water. Swish the squash around and let it cool completely in the ice bowl. Placing hot food into the freezer is not recommended.
- When the food is cool, pour the squash back into the colander and allow it to drain again.
- You can place the drained squash on a cookie sheet tray (or in a freezing tub) and then transfer it to freezer bags once it is frozen. Using this method keeps the pieces from sticking together and lets you remove individual pieces from the freezer bag.
- The frozen squash will be good for at least six months in your freezer. You can extend the shelf life by using a FoodSaver bag to remove oxygen.
What are your favorite ways to use fresh and frozen winter squash? Do you like to eat it all year long or just in the fall when it is in season?