Ever wonder where the term winter and summer squash came from? Winter squash are slow growing, harvested in the late summer through the fall. They have a thicker skin that toughens into a rind which allows for the squash to be stored and enjoyed throughout the winter. On the other hand, summer squash are quick-growing, typically prolific producers of soft fruit.
Yes, that’s right, squashes are actually a fruit since they contain seeds and develop from the flower producing part of the plant!
Winter squash comes in many shapes and colours with flesh that ranges from golden-yellow to brilliant orange. No two look alike and most are harvested when fully mature once the cooler weather sets in. They can be stored for months in a cool basement and the different varieties of winter squash may be substituted for each other in your many squash recipes. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, winter squash can be prepared in sweet and savory recipes.
How to Choose and Use a Winter Squash
When choosing a winter squash, look for one that feels heavy for its size and has hard, deep-colored skin free from blemishes. All varieties are great for pureeing, roasting, and baking. Once squash is cooked and mashed, it can be used in soups, main dishes, vegetable side dishes, even breads, muffins, custards and pies.
How to Store Winter Squash
To store winter squash, place the whole winter squash on top of a thick pad of newspapers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location, like your basement. Check it on a regular basis for rot and use within three to six months depending on the variety of squash. You can refrigerate tightly wrapped cut pieces of winter squash and use them within 5 days once cut. Once a squash is cooked, whether it’s steamed or baked, the flesh of the squash can be stored in the freezer until you’d like to enjoy it.
Did you know that every part of the squash plant can be eaten? It’s not just the flesh which we most often encounter, but the leaves and tender shoots are also edible and can be added to omelets or made into soup. Many of the edible parts may only be available if you grow them at home in your garden, but you can keep an eye out in stores just in case!
Most people are aware of the readily available varieties like Acorn or Pepper squash (which comes in both dark green and white varieties), Butternut, and Spaghetti Squash, but there are so many delicious varieties at Vince’s Market you may want to try out this holiday season!
Sweet Dumpling Squash
The orange-yellowish flesh of the Sweet Dumpling squash is very sweet with a hazelnut-like flavor that most people find very delicious. About the size of an extra-large apple, this single-serving squash usually weighs under one pound apiece and is shaped like a miniature pumpkin due to the scalloped lobes that form the rind. The skin is often white with mottled yellow, orange, and/or green markings. Inside, the flesh is smooth, tender, and sweet, with a bright orange color. Like all winter squash, it’s a great source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and fiber.
Sweet Dumpling Squash Crème Brulée
- 6 sweet dumpling winter squash
- 5 eggs, yolks only
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups cream
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean extract or paste
- ½ cup sweet dumpling squash purée
- 2 to 3 tablespoons maple sugar or raw sugar for crispy brulée topping
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Cut the sweet dumpling squash in half, scoop out and discard all the seeds and a little bit of the flesh to form a clean bowl shape. Cut a thin slice off the bottom edge so that the squash half can securely sit cut-side up without wobbling. Place the squash halves on a large baking sheet.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until pale yellow and the sugar has dissolved.
- Combine the cream and spices in a saucepan and heat on medium until just before it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and squash purée. Then slowly whisk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking until smooth.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into the prepared squash halves.
- Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. They are ready when the custard is set and doesn’t wiggle when jiggled lightly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, then chill until ready to use.
- When you are ready to serve your dessert, sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on top of each custard. Using a small butane torch, hover a flame over the sugar, moving it around until the sugar caramelizes. If you don’t have a torch, place the crème brulée under your broiler, set to high heat. Carefully check them every 15 to 30 seconds because the caramelizing will happen very quickly. This method is a lot more difficult to get even caramelization.
- Serve right away.
Golden Nugget Squash
The Golden Nugget Squash is a small, round, hard-shelled squash with a brightly colored orange shell with ridges. It’s about the size of a softball and resembles a round pumpkin. It has a moist and smooth, sweet squash flavor.
Gold Nugget Squash Soup
- 14 cups golden nugget squash
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 2 cups Spanish onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped and wrapped in a cheesecloth bundle
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger or
- 8 cups vegetable stock (or substitute chicken stock)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Cut squash in half, scoop out and discard seeds and strings. Place squash halves cut-side-down on a sheet pan or rimmed cookie sheet.
- Pour water into the pan with the squash and carefully place in oven.
- Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife passes easily through the squash. Remove from oven and let cool.
- With a large metal spoon, scrape the squash flesh out of the rind. Put the flesh into a large bowl and set aside.
- Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the safflower oil, then the onions, garlic and ginger. Cook until onions are soft.
- Add white wine and continue to cook until the liquid is almost evaporated.
- Add the squash flesh, coconut milk, lemon grass, galangal and stock to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring frequently.
- Remove lemongrass bundle, season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Blend in batches until smooth.
- Serve hot. Top with a dollop of sour cream if desired.
Sweet Potato or Delicata Squash
Sweet Potato or Delicata squash is a variety of winter squash with a cream-coloured cylindrical shape striped in green or orange with a delicate rind that is edible. They have a delicate brown sugar flavor, and taste like a cross between fresh corn and pumpkin pie. Like all hard squash, delicata is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C, relatively low in calories and astonishingly versatile. Many describe their taste as similar to the Butternut squash but much easier to prepare as their skins are not as thick (and edible. Did I mention edible?).
Roasted Brown Sugar Delicata Squash
- 2 Delicata squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or more to taste
- cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the delicata squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut the halves into 3/4 inch thick slices.
- Line a sheet pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the olive oil mixture over the squash and toss to coat.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until squash is tender and starting to brown. Serve immediately.
Turks Turban Squash
The colours of Turks Turban squash vary, but they are brightly colored. The bottom half is usually a solid color in shades of dark orange to reddish orange while the top is generally beige with streaks of reddish orange and dark green. The average size of a fully matured Turks Turban Squash is between 5 to 6 pounds, and their flavour is nutty, more specifically reminiscent of hazelnuts, with not a lot of sweetness found in some of the other winter squashes.
Turks Turban Pie
- 3 cups cooked Turks Turban Squash puree (make sure it’s smooth – it’ll save you time later!)
- 4 Eggs
- 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Tsp. Salt
- 1/2 Tsp. Ginger
- 1 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 Tsp. Allspice
- 2 Graham Cracker Pie Crusts
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Prepare your filling by beating 4 eggs into sweetened condensed milk. Add in spices and beat until all spices are blended.
- Add the Turks Turban squash puree to your filling mix and blend until consistent.
- Pour mixture into the two pie shells and place back into oven at 425F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes are up, turn oven down to 350 and bake for an additional 30-45 minutes.
- Test doneness with a toothpick or knife. If inserted in middle and removed with little pie clinging to metal, pie is done.
- Set it on your counter and let it cool as it warms the room with delicious aroma!
- When it’s cooled to a warm sensation, eat it with cool whip, ice cream or whatever you choose. Warm it up in the microwave if you choose!
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