Saturday, October 9, 2010

Butternut Squash Advice, and My Dad

Nobody raised deeply flavored butternut squashes like my Dad.  We lost Dad last winter, and we miss him every day.  Naturally we are discovering with each season more of the quiet legacies he left that we grew to expect ... tulips and daffodils in spring, scrumptious tomatoes, peppers and raspberries in summer, and those glorious butternuts each fall.  He raised Concord grapes for Welch Foods for 40 years, and this year when that sweet, grape-y fragrance began to float about on hot fall days, it was especially poignant to realize that he wouldn't be here for the harvest.

While Dad didn't want much to do with computers or the internet, I think he would have approved of my giving you all advice on how to get the most out of your butternut squashes. 

Nothing tastes quite like an excellent butternut squash.  Mellow and smooth, it reminds us of summer's warmth and warns us of autumn's chill.

But how to get AT the dang things!  Butternut squashes can be exasperatingly inaccessible, what with their hard shells and the fact that most of us don't keep axes in our kitchens, much less a handy wood-splitting stump out back.

No matter. I have found that microwaving butternut squashes for 10 minutes or so softens the skin and allows you to peel it off, leaving an accessible squash that can now be cut into slices or cubes for your favorite recipes.

Just cut the ends off the squash (I'm not sure why I do this) and, with a knife, poke some holes into the seed cavity.  I think that helps avoid explosions?  Not sure.  But why not do it anyway! 

Now, position the squash on its side in a microwave, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.  Total time will depend on your squash and your microwave.  Check after 5 minutes.  The skin should start to turn a bit gray, and begin to pucker a little.  The skin should remove easily when the right amount of cooking time has been reached.  

You will need to let the squash cool a bit before continuing with the peel job.  I've found that standing the squash upright and peeling downwards works best.  DO NOT cut upward toward the hand that is steadying the squash.  I hope I don't need to tell you why.

Be sure to remove the peeling down to the bright-orange squash flesh, and to trim off all the little green lines running vertically.

After peeling the squash, cut it in half lengthwise.  A serrated ice-cream scoop works wonderfully to get all the seeds and strings out.

You can now cut the squash into chunks, dice, slices --- whatever your recipe calls for.  The squash pieces can be used immediately or frozen.

Just don't waste any, y'hear?  It isn't easy to grow a good butternut!


  1. Having been v.close to my dad, too, I can appreciate how you miss yours, Becky.
    Love and SO appreciate the hints on peeling a butternut squash. Of course, being a city-suburb-raised girl, I had no idea I am even supposed to peel it. I've been 'bout denting my countertops to split the dang things so I *can* nuke 'em. I adore the tasty insides.

  2. The brief microwaving process does make them easier to cut in half so you can roast them "en peel" if you like! I firmly believe that our food should not injure us!