A few basic tips about squash and pumpkinsChoosing squash: Look for squash that is firm and heavy. Avoid any with decay or soft spots.
By: Herald Staff and Wire Reports, Grand Forks Herald
• Choosing: Look for squash that is firm and heavy. Avoid any with decay or soft spots.
• Preparing: If you first slice off the top or bottom, you will have a flat surface to rest it on before peeling. Peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.
With a large squash such as Hubbard, insert a knife and use a meat cleaver or rubber hammer to pound the knife into the squash.
Pierce smaller varieties such as acorn, delicata and carnival several times all over and then microwave a few minutes to soften the skin. That makes it easier to cut through.
• Storing: Most winter squash will last for weeks stored in a cool, dark place such as an unheated store room or garage kept at 40 degrees or so in wintertime.
• Baking: Cut in half or into pieces and remove seeds. Place cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, melted butter or margarine and, if you like, a sprinkling of brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes.
• Roasting: Cut squash in half lengthwise. Rub with a little olive oil and place the cut side down on a sided baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes.
Once cooked, squash will keep a few days in the refrigerator. You also can freeze cooked squash. Place cooked cubes or puree in sealable freezer bags or containers and freeze up to one year.
• Preparing: Remove the stem with sharp knife. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass.
• Boiling/steaming: Cut pumpkin into large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup.
• Baking: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until fork tender.
• Microwaving: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes. Check for doneness. If necessary, continue cooking at 1- to 2-minute intervals until fork tender. Continue as outlined below in Preparing the Puree.
• Pureeing: When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.
Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving ½-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0 degrees for up to one year. (Transfer hot foods to shallow containers to speed cooling. You can place loosely covered foods in the refrigerator while still warm; cover when food is completely cooled. Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.)