There is a good variety of these vegetables available in most grocery stores. The most common ones are butternut, buttercup, acorn, and Hubbard, and they are all a little different when cooked in terms of texture and color. I recommend trying different ones to find your favorites. They also keep a long time when stored in a cool, dark place, and are among the easiest foods to prepare for eating on their own, or for use in recipes.
My favorite kinds are acorn, butternut and buttercup. Their rich orange flesh is naturally sweet and delicious without any need for embellishments or added flavoring at all. It’s a cinch to bake or microwave it so that you have a wonderful accompaniment for a meal in minutes.
But there are times when recipes call for cubed squash.
Surprisingly, it is sometimes cheaper than the fresh. If it can save you money, I recommend buying it that way. It will definitely save you a bit of time.
However, I have to say that I have never found the frozen versions nearly as sweet or flavorful as the fresh ones. For that reason, I do recommend cutting up your own if it fits into your schedule and your budget.
It does take a little time and extra prep, but the results are worth it in my opinion. And it is far easier than most people realize.
In fact, it's simple enough to do that there's no reason to pay the substantial premium for someone else's labor by buying the expensive, prepared, bagged versions in the produce department.
You can also puree cooked squash by scooping it out of the rind and mashing it with a potato masher or beating it in a mixer until smooth. This same puree method can be used for cooked, diced squash as well.
You can eat the puree with some added seasoning, or you can use it to as a thickener in sauces, or as an addition to baked goods to replace some or all of the oil called for in recipes.
As a point of reference, the canned pumpkin you buy for your holiday pies is pureed pumpkin squash.
The puree can also be frozen for later use. Puree squash freezes exceptionally well.
Here are the more specific instructions for preparing squash:
- Wash the squash under a bit of running water, rubbing all over to remove any stubborn garden soil or handling and transport dirt.
- Place the squash on a cutting surface. Note: Squash can be difficult to cut up for cooking. To avoid injury, be sure to use a sharp knife with a long, strong blade that will be able to handle cutting through the tough squash pulp.
- Start by holding the squash steady with one hand and stabbing or pushing the knife firmly into the squash from directly above with the other hand. Continue to hold the squash steady and pull the knife handle firmly down towards you so that the blade is cutting through the squash in an arc. Pull the knife out.
- Turn the squash around and reinsert the knife into the same original stabbing slot, and pull the handle down toward you again to cut through the other side. You should now be able to pull the two halves apart.
- Cut the halves into quarters by cutting through the stems. Continue to cut the squash into portion size pieces. You want relatively uniformly-sized pieces, so that they will cook in about the same amount of time.
- Scrape out the seeds with a large spoon and dispose of them. Place the squash pieces pulp side down onto cookie sheet or in a shallow baking dish and add a little (about ½-inch) water to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and place it in a pre-heated oven set to 350º– 400º F. The temperature will be determined by whether you are cooking the squash by itself or baking it alongside a roast or other dish. Calculate about 30-45 minutes at 400º F, and about 60-90 minutes at the lower temperatures, depending on the size of the pieces.
- If you are using the microwave, place the squash pieces pulp side down in a microwavable dish and add about ¼ cup of water or a combination of apple or orange juice and water, if desired. Cover the dish and microwave the squash for about 10-15 minutes, rotating the pieces of squash, if necessary to ensure even doneness.
- The squash is done when you can pierce the skin and pulp easily with a fork or knife. Remove the cooked squash from the oven and serve it immediately, or keep it warm until needed.
Dicing Method 1 (the old, traditional way):
Butternut squash is pretty much the one that most recipes call for when they incorporate diced squash. Until recently, I always used this method to get the diced pieces.
- Wash the squash.
- Then peel it with a peeler.
- Cut it in half using the same procedure as outlined above
- Scoop and scrape out the seeds with a large spoon.
- Cut the squash into ever smaller pieces to create diced ones about ¾-1-inch in size as shown in the photos below.
- Measure out what I need for my recipe and set it aside. Store any extras for later use.
Here's another way I recently learned about to prepare diced squash, and it makes the peeling, dicing, and cutting of the squash substantially easier.
Here’s how you do it.
- Wash the squash under a bit of running water, rubbing it gently to remove any garden residue.
- Pierce the squash all over with a sharp knife.
- Place the whole squash - or however big a piece you are using - in the microwave and nuke on high for about 5 minutes.
- Check to make sure the skin is softened a bit by checking with a knife or pressing it with your hand. If it is not, then microwave it a bit longer.
- Remove the squash from the microwave and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
- Peel the squash with a peeler. It should come off quite easily, much more easily than with the other method of peeling.
- Cut the squash to expose the seeds. It will be quite easy to cut, using this partially cooked method.
- Scoop out the seeds. Set them aside for further cleaning and roasting, or simply discard them.
- Cut the squash into the desired size for the recipe they will be used in. You will find it much easier to do than when it's raw.
The squash is now ready to use as you need it. If you have more than you need, you can store the excess in the fridge, or in the freezer until you use it at a later time.
Whichever way you use the squash, enjoy!