Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peeling a Butternut Squash

When I was planting my garden this past spring, I found a packet of butternut squash seeds in the supply cupboard. They looked old but I planted the whole lot in 2 areas of the garden and was surprised when almost every one of them germinated! And they thrived. It was difficult to pull all but 2 of the largest plants to thin them out.

This is my dinner preparation still life from the other night. No, I didn't grow the sprouts (tried once a few years ago, the deer enjoyed them immensely).

Okay, tilt your head to the right to view this. I have downloaded it four times and it will not come up as a horizontal photo!

I harvested about a dozen very nice-sized butternut squash from the garden a few weeks ago(and a half dozen buttercup, the seeds of which I had also “discovered”).

Butternut squash are notoriously difficult to peel, and since they must be peeled if you are to chop them into pieces, I have worked out a rather easy way to get the job done.

Look at the shape of the squash. There is a long, straight neck and a bulbous bottom. What I did was to cut the squash into manageable pieces according to its shape. First, using a sharp knife, and being very careful because when it is laid on its side, obviously the squash wants to roll, cut it where the straight part begins to flare. Then cut off the top (stem) and the bottom (blossom end).

First the more difficult section. Using a Y-peeler, remove a strip around both the top and bottom off the piece, as much as you can (sometimes it will seem to curl on forever!). After that, peel the remaining in short, top-to-bottom strokes.

Next, the straight piece. As you did with the other, a strip around both the top and bottom should be removed.

Then, holding it in your hand and using nice long strokes, peel the easiest section of this squash.

Stand the bulbous peeled piece on its bottom (blossom end) and cut in half. Scrape out the seeds and chop or slice into smaller pieces.

Cut the straight piece into two shorter pieces, stand them on end on a flat, sturdy surface, and slice down in half. Then chop however you want.

Really, the most important parts of this technique are to use a sharp knife and a sharpY-peeler, use a flat work surface, keep the pieces as sturdy as possible, and for heavens’ sake don’t try to cut anything that is showing a tendency to roll. Trim if you must, to create a flat area. Keep the pieces manageable, ones that you can easily hold in your hand while you peel with the other hand.

Now, you can avoid all of this if you are going to scoop the butternut squash flesh from the shell to mash it. There are recipes online which instruct to slice the squash in half lengthwise (the best way, again, is to slice off enough of the stem and blossom ends to that it doesn’t roll), scoop out the seeds, lay cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and roast. I haven’t yet tried this method.