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October 14, 2018

Winter Food Prep: Preserving and Using an Abundance of Squash for Cold-Weather Comfort Food



Preserving squash so you can have cold-weather comfort food.

This is the first year that I've had a squash plant still alive at the end of summer; I usually lose them to squash vine borers. Even though I only have one plant, it's very vigorous, growing a prolific number of some sort of winter squash. The variety is still unknown, but there are a lot of squash on that very long vine.


I've heard tales of gardeners who'll leave a bag of zucchini in any car in the church parking lot that isn't locked. And of people who are sure to lock their cars on Sunday mornings.

Today Krystal from Three Wondrous Acres Homestead is here sharing methods of how to preserve an overabundance of  both summer and winter squash and what to do with it over the winter. She's right, even though we might be tired of squash by the end of summer, come January we'd probably all be pretty happy to plan a meal around a delicious butternut, right?


Preserving and Using an Abundance of Squash for Cold-Weather Comfort Food


In a good year, it’s nearly impossible to use up fresh squash in a timely manner; it could take a week for us to use a single morning’s squash harvest.

This tends to result in abandoning baskets of squash on neighbors' doorsteps, leaving surprise squash in family kitchens, and begging the dog to just try one little bite.

Trust me, the dog will kick it under the table to the mice. She’s not having it.

However, your feelings towards all of that squash will change as we barrel into the new year; you’ll be wishing you were still picking it by the truck load.

With a healthy balance of summer and winter squash, you’ll have plenty to add (both fresh and preserved) to a slew of winter comfort meals. Next time you think about dumping all of that squash off and forcing the neighbors to fend for themselves with that mountain of fruit, try storing it for winter!

Winter food prep: how to preserve any kind of squash for cold-weather comfort food.

5 of the Best Ways to Preserve Squash for Winter Use


There are many dishes that can be made from squash. In short, if a recipe comes to your mind, I’ve probably made it. Whether you want to freeze zucchini for zucchini bread, dehydrate crookneck squash for stews, or can a combination for spaghetti sauce, there’s always a great way to preserve it.

Canning Squash: Spaghetti, Anyone?


Squash can be canned and used in many different recipes. Just remember that canned squash will be a bit on the soggy side, so the recipe it’s used in must be considered carefully. I enjoy using canned squash in my spaghetti sauces with crunchy bell peppers, pork, whole grain pasta, and a delicious spicy salsa. It is absolutely divine.

Tip: almost any summer squash will fit the bill for this spaghetti, trust me!

Freezing Squash: Want to Sink Your Teeth Into Warm Zucchini Bread?


Zucchini bread is a common sight on the summer homestead. Anything “zucchini” is, to be honest. However, you can shred up the backed-up zucchini pile on your counter top (the one that’s staring you down, that you’ve been putting off for a week and shedding a few tears over), and freeze it for just this purpose.

Tip: When you freeze the shredded zucchini, try packing it into a 1-cup measuring cup, and release it over a lined baking sheet. Set this in your freezer until frozen solid. Then, move these cubes into a freezer bag; you can’t go wrong with pre-measured zucchini cubes!
How many ways can you preserve squash and make into cold-weather comfort food over the winter?

Dehydrating Squash: Need a Filler Veggie for Soups, Stews, and Casseroles?


This is one of my personal favorites. Dehydrating squash allows you to store an incredible amount of food in a very small space. You would be astounded at how much squash it requires to fill a gallon jar. You can chuck dehydrated squash into nearly anything: it’s a lovely filler vegetable, it takes on the flavor of the food, and you can save a ton of it. It can stretch most recipes at the last minute, allowing a family meal to feed an additional person or two at a moment’s notice. Not that I know this from experience, or anything. Summer squash doesn’t offer a lot of flavor, which is clearly not as unfortunate as many people think. This can be used to your advantage.

Tip: I recommend leaving the skins of the squash on, as that is a nutritious part of the summer squash and it involves less work. Cut the squash into 1/4-inch cubes or strips; this will allow for the fastest, most efficient dehydration process. Add silica packets within your jars to extend the life of the dehydrated squash.

Growing Winter Squash: Want to Simply Chuck the Squash In Your Pantry?


Winter squash varieties, such as pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash, produce thick skins that allow them to store for long lengths of time. Many winter squashes are believed to be able to last for 9 months at a time; this, of course, depends on the conditions in which you store the squash. Native Americans grew many hard winter squashes, dent or flint corn, and shelling beans for this purpose; tribes managed to get through very long, cold winters with these foods. Unprocessed winter squash can outlast some preservation methods for summer squash, which is truly astounding. In addition, who doesn’t love an easy chore like chucking the squash into the pantry? No cutting or peeling required!


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When storing winter squash, always choose the best fruits for long term storage. If the skin is broken or damaged, whether it was cut, diseased, or eaten by pests, it should be eaten very soon or it may rot in storage. Always cut squash away from the vine with approximately 2 inches of stem, avoiding pulling them from the vine by hand. My pantry offers warmth and ideal humidity for curing during the late summer, as it is not air conditioned or heated. If you do not have a space that sits at 75 to 85 degrees for two weeks of curing, you could cure them outdoors on screens that provide air flow. Curing sweetens the squash and lowers the moisture content of the fruit. Once cured, store the squash in a cool location (50 to 65 degrees) with low humidity for maximum shelf life. Again, my pantry is not heated during winter so it offers an ideal storage environment. If squash develops soft spots or shriveled stems, it should be removed from storage and discarded.

Tip: My favorite winter squash is spaghetti squash, as it is an excellent alternative to wheat-based noodles. We eat spaghetti between once and twice per week, in all of its glorious forms. This squash makes an excellent spaghetti boat, which is a lovely and fun presentation for a family dinner. Keep your attention on the type of squash you’re saving, because some are much sweeter than others and may not be ideal for all recipes.

Up-Cycling Summer Squash Scraps: Want to Reduce Your Waste?


The peels of summer squash are commonly discarded, but this is a waste of some of the most important nutritional benefits of squash. The limited fiber within the squash, as well as a majority of its vitamin K and potassium content, are contained within the peels of the squash. If you prefer to peel your squash for many of your recipes, try preserving the peels through dehydrating them. Once they are fully dried, powder them in a blender or a coffee grinder and store in a sealed glass jar. This can be added to many different foods, such as soups, stews, casseroles, broths, and roasted vegetables.

Tip: Try using this squash powder to thicken up soups and stews while adding a potassium and fiber rich punch. It’s a low-carb alternative to other thickeners, and it will give you a dose of healthy green veggies (should they be zucchini peels.)

Here's how you can preserve and use an abundance of squash for winter comfort food.

My Final Thoughts


Please explore the vast realm of possibility that squash offers in your own kitchen. These recipe ideas and potential uses are hardly the tip of the iceberg. I thought I had a great handle on using my summer squash efficiently, up until some of the rogue zucchinis magically appeared out of nowhere, apparently in an attempt to compete with the likes of a mid-sized sedan.

Would you believe me if I said I found a use for those, too? I made a Mock Apple Crisp, and featured it on my blog. The rogue zucchinis are always the hardest to find uses for; that recipe got me through the largest zucchini wave we had. I managed to put a dent in the collection of overgrown zucchinis that I had, and the resulting dessert was a magical experience.

Squash is one of the most important, versatile, and intriguing vegetables grown on the homestead. Do you have any interesting or unique uses and recipes that you utilize with your squash bounties?


Over at Three Wondrous Acres Homestead, nestled in the gently rolling hills of Tennessee, Krystal’s family is slowly working towards a life of cleaner and healthier food, an enriching childhood for their children, and a greater connection with nature herself. With posts ranging from gardening, food preservation, and animal care to frugal living tips, homesteading hacks, and experimental journeys, there’s always an interesting post available. With every success comes motivation, and with every failure comes a valuable lesson on the homestead; follow along with the journey at


How to use and preserve an over-abundance of squash for cold-weather comfort food: winter food prep



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.

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6 comments:

  1. I have several spaghetti squash in my pantry waiting to be used up!

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    Replies
    1. Spaghetti squash and butternut are my favorites. :-)

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  2. I store my butternut squash & spaghetti squash in my unheated storage room all winter long. I freeze my long neck pumpkin and shred zucchini - use them throughout the winter for many different purposes. Visiting from Simple Homestead Blog hop!

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    Replies
    1. I was trying to figure out where I should keep mine... but I have an unheated mudroom too. Thank you for that idea! Hopefully our fluctuating temperatures during the winter won't affect them adversely.

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  3. Great article! I add Squash to my Mexican style casserole when I'm using up leftover beans, corn, salsa, tortillas and tomatoes. Love the nutritional value and flavour, and it's the only way my littlest one will eat it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Finding a way to get vegetables in a child is a real blessing!

      Delete

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