Winter squashes are the most plentiful from early autumn until late winter.
Unlike the summer squashes, the winter squashes must be cooked before they are eaten. Add winter squash to soups, stews, couscous, and curries. Use winter squash to make pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, pudding, soufflés, and cream desserts.
Choose a winter squash—such as the Hubbard, butternut, acorn, or buttercup—that is hard shelled and heavy for its size. That means the squash will be mature and the flesh is ready for eating.
To serve four, you will need to select a squash that weighs at least 2 to 3 pounds.
Winter squashes have tough, hard skins that are never eaten. It is best to cook a winter squash in its skin.
Acorn, butternut, Kabocha, and pumpkin should be cut in half length wise before cooking. Banana and Hubbard squash should be cut into serving size pieces. Use a heavy-bladed knife. Remove the seeds and stringy insides and you will be ready to cook. You can peel the skin away after cooking.
Here are basic cooking instructions for winter squash:
Baking. Halve or quarter the squash if it is too large to cook whole. Place, cut side down, in a greased rimmed baking pan. Bake all except pumpkin, covered, in a 400ºF to 450ºF oven until flesh is tender when pierced (30 to 45 minutes). Bake small pumpkin, uncovered, in a 350ºF oven until flesh is tender when pierced (1 to 1¼ hours).
Or bake topped with brown sugar or maple syrup. Cut the unpeeled squash in half (or quarters), remove the seeds, put butter or oil in the cavity and season to taste with salt and pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon or other seasoning. Place the squash in a baking dish with 1 to 2 inches (2.4-5 cm) of water and bake for 30 to 60 minutes or until tender.
Boiling. Halve or quarter the squash if it is too large to cook whole. Peel and cut into ½-inch-thick slices. In a wide frying pan, boil 1½ to 2 pounds squash, covered, in ½ inch water until tender when pierced (7 to 9 minutes). Drain.
Butter-steaming. Halve or quarter the squash if it is too large to cook whole. Peel and cut into 1 inch-cubes. Butter-steam up to 5 cups, using 2 tablespoons butter or margarine. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 3 to 5 tablespoons liquid, cover, and cook just until squash is tender to bite (6 to 8 minutes).
Microwaving. Halve or quarter 2 medium-size squash such as acorn or butternut (about 1½ pounds each) or a 1-pound piece of squash such as banana. (Pumpkin is not recommended for microwaving.) Place squash, cut side up, in a 9- by 13-inch nonmetallic baking dish. Spread cut surfaces with 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine; cover. Microwave on high (100%) for 10 to 13 minutes, rotating dish ½ turn after 5 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Flesh should be tender when pierced.
Steaming. Halve or quarter the squash then peel and cut into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a rack. Steam until tender when pierced (9 to 12 minutes).
Flavor partners. Winter squash has a flavor affinity for butter, couscous, garlic, honey, lamb, maple syrup, olive oil, pasta, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme.
Season winter squashes with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, basil, dill, mustard, oregano, thyme, parsley, marjoram, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, anise, rosemary, or fennel.
Serve winter squashes with seasonings alone or top with plain or flavored butter or margarine, or with white sauce or with honey, molasses, or brown sugar.