I finally finished last year’s canning this past weekend. I know it is only a short hop until I start prepping the ground for this year’s seeds, but my acorn squash vines produced an abundance of fruit this year – I mean, last year – and they stay fresh for a long time.
I have been slowly using them up by baking them in the oven after putting butter and brown sugar into the hollow center. But I am the only one who really enjoys them, and it takes awhile for one person to eat a whole squash.
As the months have passed, they have gotten continuously riper. The green skins became spotted with yellow and orange, and the flesh inside became a little darker. The normally difficult-to-cut fruit was becoming easier. Baking took less time, and they required less sugar because their natural sweetness started to peak.
This weekend, I noticed that the skins on the squash were more orange than green. Then, when I tried to cut one open, I realized that it didn’t feel like I was attempting to slice through a boulder. I knew that they were as good as they were going to get, and any more time would only serve to spoil them.
So I cut them all in half. I scooped out all of their seeds. And I baked them all on cookie sheets for nearly an hour. Then I put the roasted halves into a large bowl and covered it with foil, where I let them continue to steam for another hour. Then I laid them back onto the cookie sheets to cool until I could handle them without burning myself.
Next I grabbed the food processor. I scooped the softened, orange, semi-stringy tissue from the skin. I pulsed and pureed the squash in dozens of batches until it was all smooth. Finally, I had a large bowl of ready-to-can pulp on my counter.
At the same time, I had kids asking me what was for dessert. So I broke out my recipe box and started looking for what I could make them out of squash. I found the recipe for pumpkin muffins I had recently made and a couple of others to try. I also found a recipe for a creamy vegetable soup and rigatoni sauce that both called for pumpkin. I made them all.
When my husband came in to ask about dinner, I told him I had made rigatoni and soup. He tried the soup, but said it tasted like pumpkin. I began to worry about feeding him the pasta. And the muffins. And the frosted bar cookies. I knew that they all would taste a lot like pumpkin.
He dutifully tried all the dishes I made, asking each time if they had pumpkin in them. I said no, just squash. We made it through dinner with only a modicum of heavy sighing and eye-rolling.
Afterwards, I finished processing the remaining squash. I cleaned up the kitchen and put everything away. Everything except my pumpkin recipes, that is.
We’ll have to use that up in the next few months. I’ll be planting more seeds here shortly, and another bumper crop could be on its way.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at email@example.com.