How to Peel and Cook Winter Squash

Cooking winter squashPeeling and cooking winter squash can be a time consuming, difficult chore. Because it is hard, it can also be tough to cut it up when raw. There is an easy solution to this problem. If you want to peel it and cut it into cubes for cooking, it is much easier to bake it just enough to soften it for peeling first. Softened winter squash is a lot easier to peel than raw squash. Whether you are going to bake it in the oven until done or if you are going to soften it up for peeling, then finish cooking it on the stove, it is necessary to start long before preparing the rest of the meal. Following is the recipe for cooking and peeling winter squash.

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Wash the squash. With a large, sharp knife, stab the squash through to the hollow middle. Do this about four times. This will prevent the squash from blowing up in the oven. Seriously, make sure you have some good holes in the squash before putting it into the oven.

Place the squash on a baking pan lined with parchment paper for easy clean up. If you don’t have parchment paper,  rub palm oil or coconut oil on the pan. There will be sticky juice that oozes from the vegetable. It is easier to clean up if it doesn’t stick to the pan.

If you are planning to peel it and finish cooking on the stovetop, bake squash for one hour at 350˚. If you are going to bake it until done, bake for 1 to 1½ hours. If you are baking a large pumpkin, you may have to bake it as long as 2 ½ hours. At 1 hour, put a fork in the squash to check for doneness. You will know the squash is done if it is soft and the fork goes in easily.

If you are baking the squash to make it easier to peel, remove it from the oven after one hour, then set to cool for at least half an hour before beginning to peel it. Cut in in half and remove the seeds. Cut the remaining squash into chunks and cook in a little water or oil for 30-45 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.

Winter squash is good by itself or added to many types of casserole or rice dishes. Winter squash also makes a wonderful addition to soup. It can be added to broth and pureed in the blender, then added back into the soup to create a rich, flavorful broth.

Winter squash includes pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and other less known varieties like uchiki kuri (which is included in the photo above). All winter squash has a hard shell.

Pumpkin and all other winter squash seeds can be removed from the squash, rinsed in cool water and baked in the oven for a delicious snack.

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