Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Squashing Your Fears Concerning Winter Squash

"Winter squash has such a tough skin! What's the best way to peel and cut it?"

That was a question I was asked recently. And although Canadian thanksgiving is over with for this year, I know there are many of my American blogging buddies who are probably wondering the same thing. I'm here to help!
Let's talk about squash! The yellow and orange flesh of this lovely vegetable is more nutritious and richer in vitamins, especially beta carotene, than summer squash. It's always served cooked and, because of its tough skin, only the inside flesh is eaten. This flesh is sweet and perfect for cooking - as a side dish with your meal, baked and stuffed, or pureed and turned into muffins, sweet breads and pies, especially pumpkin! There are many varieties of this lovely vegetable; and because it's hard, protective outer skin increases its storage life, winter squash can be stored for 3 months or longer if kept in a cool dark place, like a basement or garage.
. Unlike the picture above, squash cannot talk!

Some winter squash are small and can be peeled with relative ease. But in Atlantic Canada, the one you most often find is the Buttercup squash which has an extremely tough outer skin.
However, being tough Maritimers ourselves, we do not flinch at the task! So, let me share my knowledge with you on how to tackle the job of peeling and cutting up one of my favorite vegetables.


First, assemble the tools you'll need for the job. .

I use a large chef's knife. I insert the point of the knife into one end and exert pressure on it while kind-of rocking it back and forth to cut through the skin. If the squash is a large one (like I'm apt to buy, especially for holiday meals), it will probably only cut part of the way before it becomes stuck; you then put yourself in reverse -- hold the squash down and rock the knife back and forth while you pull on it to get it out. Wipe blood off vegetable, get a bandaid and continue. Now, turn the squash upside down, insert the point into the skin on this side, and rocking the knife back and forth, try to meet up with your original cut.
Phew! Man! This is hard work! Better fortify yourself; open that bottle of Thanksgiving wine and pour a wee glass!

Now that the first cut is done, it will be a little easier. Continue to cut your squash into manageable chunks. You may have to stop every now and then (5 min rests as opposed to the 10 min one you needed for that first cut.) Open and close your cramping fingers several times to get the blood flowing again; rub vigorously to try to get the imprint of the knife handle out of the palm of your hand. Raise squash into the air and shout loudly at Vegetable Gods:
Why! Why! WHY!
Pour more wine. Ahhhhh! Now, back to squash .....
Sorry! Wrong squash!
Depending on the size of your squash (and your wine glass), this portion of the job should take anywhere from 1/2 an hour to 45 min. Once that sucker is cut into chunks, it gets much easier. The next thing you do is to scoop out its guts with your large soup spoon.During this task, you will find that this slippery little devil will flick its slimy entrails around your kitchen. (Cursing also usually happens at this stage!) After the centre has been cleaned out, turn the pieces onto their sides and slice off (aka hack off) the tough outer skin. Discard entrails and outer skin, wash chunks, put into pot with a little water & salt, and cook for 15-20 min.
Collapse on floor and reward yourself for having "tamed the wild beast". While drinking wine, clean the squash seeds out of your hair.
Once the squash is cooked, drain and mash, adding delicious, coronary-hardening amounts of butter and a generous splash of maple syrup (OR is that a generous splash of wine?). Mash the squash some more until it's creamy and sweet and orange and inviting. Umm um um!
Smile and serve this 'sacrifice of time and love' to your family, including the international students who have been gathered to your bosom and wrapped in your warm embrace.
Hear the festive dining room ring out with their loud exclaimations and singing choruses:
"Eww! Mom, I hate squash!"
"Do I have to eat that?"
"No! I don't like the texture!"
Turn on your heel, go directly upstairs to bedroom, lock door, finish that bottle of wine. Ungrateful little brats!
Yeah! So that's pretty much how I do it. I hope it helps.


Terra said...

Oh you are so funny! I have an intimidating butternut squash sitting on my kitchen counter right now. Shall I put the bandaids and a glass of red wine at the ready?

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Why is it that kids never like squash until they grow up. I used to make squash pies using it just like pumpkin so that I could get mine to eat it. Of course you had to peel it and cook it down first. Too bad I didn't know about your tip for using wine in the process then. Have a Happy Wednesday!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I gotta go with your kids on this one. Not a squash fan.

Eva Gallant said...

Strangely enough, the kids and I love squash. Hubby will not eat it.

High Heeled Life said...

Fantastic POST!!! educational and hilarious... I just started eating squash in the last 5 years or so.. these are great cooking tips..HHL

Nezzy said...

You have me rollin' right out of my chair here. Girl, you are just too funny and I so love the tools needed for the squash. Thanks so much for givin' us all the courage to tackle that slippery gutty little varmint!

Squash pie anyone???

God bless ya and enjoy this beautiful 'fall' day!!!

KobysCache said...

Oh, I love this! Been there many times, and was not Squash one of the first baby foods that we were supposed to introduce slowly to the kids???
I just take the whole darn thing and nuke it for a few minutes in the microwave. Stab it a few times first if you can. That usually softens them up enough to hack away at them.

Gail said...

Bandaids and wine...my kind of work!

Sara said...

Love, love, love squash! We cut ours in half, scrape out the seeds, add a dab of butter and maple syrup in each side and pop it in the oven at 350 for one hour...eliminates all that cutting and chopping...and it's yummy!

GardenofDaisies said...

LOL!!!!! I LOVE squash! But I think i'm the only one in my family who does. Still, I make it anyway. But I usually cook the squash before trying to cut it. Makes it so much easier. :-)
Prick with a fork and stick in the microwave for about 10 minutes. (then you have to wait about 30 minutes for it to cool down so you don't burn yourself with the steam. )

wendy said...

That was very cute how you put that all together.

I did have someone comment on my blog that you could put the squash in the oven whole, in a little bit of water, and it cooks just fine.
Then cut it when it is done.

I may be trying that....and of course open a bottle of wine in the process.

I love your new look on your blog. Lovely.

Garden of Egan said...

OK you are hilarious!
ENjoy that wine.
I think maybe you could use a chainsaw on some of those squashes......just don't use a chainsaw and wine on the same day.

Pat MacKenzie said...

That is exactly how I do squash - always acorn squash - except that I've never put maple syrup in with the butter. Must try that at Christmas.