Did you know there is a way to preserve your favorite winter squash to enjoy fresh for up to 6 months! In this guide you will learn about how to purchase, store, and cook your favorite a wide variety of winter squash.
In Michigan, you may look forward to fall harvest bringing an abundance of winter squash starting in September through the first frost. Winter squash includes varieties such as butternut, acorn, buttercup, delicata, mashed potato, pie pumpkins, hubbard, spaghetti squash, and more!
Unlike summer squash, the winter varieties are known for thicker skin and longer shelf life - some varieties will store for up to 6 months. We have created a useful tool to help you know what flavor to expect and how long it will store:
Shelf Life (months)
Sweet and nutty flavor
Up to 3
Similar to acorn, except sweeter
Up to 6
Tastes similar to a sweet potato
Up to 6
An overall nutty squash, slightly sweet
Up to 6
Cross between butternut and sweet potato
Up to 3
Similar to sweet potato, except sweeter
Up to 6
Flesh tastes like mashed potatoes
Up to 3
Tastes like the classic canned pumpkin
Up to 3
Serves as a good alternative to pasta
Up to 3
You may be asking yourself now, how do you get your squash to live up to this shelf life? Let's talk about that next! The process that will allow you to get ready to preserve best for winter is known as curing. The curing process for squash involves cleaning your squash well and setting out in a dry, warm, and well ventilated area such as near a sunny window, a sun room, greenhouse, or sunny windowsill.
The sun will help harden the skins of your squash for optimal storage. This process takes about 7-14 days. The hard skin will help preserve quality, flavor, and prevent bacteria growth (mold). Once the curing process has completed, you can store in a cool, dry area for the winter!
Once you've purchased, cured, and stored... the next step is cooking! Now how do we enjoy these wonderful squash with rock hard outer shells without cutting our hand off to get into the flesh to bake! We have the easiest way EVER - you will never go back to trying to cut a squash in half again.
1 winter squash of choice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Place washed winter squash, whole, on to the lined sheet pan.
Bake in oven for about 60 minutes. **You may need to go longer depending on the size of your squash. When you can stick a fork easily through the skin you will know the squash has completed cooking.
Remove cooked squash from the oven, allow to cool about 10-15 minutes.
Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds with an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Discard the seeds (or feed them to your goats or chickens).
Once the seeds have been removed you can either cut the skin off or scoop the flesh out depending on how you plan to use in your recipe.
Enjoy the squash any way you desire!
Recipe Ideas for Winter Squash
Butternut Squash Pasta
3-4 cups Butternut Squash, cooked and diced
3 medium tomatoes, cored and wedged
2 leeks, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Thyme
1 box of Pasta (I used sweet potato pasta but any high fiber pasta will work!)
1/3 cup pasta water reserved from cooking the pasta
There are a few ways you can prepare your butternut squash for this recipe depending on your schedule: The night before: Bake a butternut squash as stated above, once cooled peel the skin off, cut in half, remove seeds, place in fridge until the next evening. The next day you can pull the cooled squash from the fridge and dice for recipe. The day of: Bake the butternut squash as stated above, once cooled peel the skin off, cut in half, remove seeds, and dice. Last minute meal: You can purchase frozen, diced butternut squash for this recipe and take the frozen squash from your freezer to use directly in this recipe without thawing.
You will be serving the sauce on top of a pasta of choice. For easy meal prep, you can prepare the noodles ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you plan to make this dish or you can cook the noodles while the veggies are in the oven. **When you cook the noodles, you will want to save 1/3 cup of the pasta water to use when you blend your sauce. If cooking ahead of time, save the noodle water in a separate container in the fridge so that it is not absorbed into your noodles during storage.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
On the sheet pan place diced butternut squash, tomato wedges, and diced leeks. **The ingredients on the sheet pan will be blended into a sauce after cooking; how big or small you cut these items, does not matter.
Coat the sheet pan veggies with olive oil, garlic and herb seasoning, thyme and pepper. You can add more seasoning when you taste the sauce in the end, if desired.
Bake the sheet pan mixture in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Once the veggies are done, remove from the oven and scoop into a blender or food processor. Add the 1/3 cup of pasta water. Blend until smooth.
Enjoy the sauce over your noodle of choice! If you have leftovers you can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for an easy meal option later!
Parmesan Roasted Delicata Squash
Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash
Pumpkin Overnight Oats
Mashed Potato Squash
1 Mashed Potato Squash Butter (optional)
Sour Cream (optional)
Cook as listed above; this squash is a bit smaller and may only take 45 minutes. When you can pierce the skin easily with a fork you know that the squash is done.
When cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool about 5-10 minutes.
Once cooled, you can serve any way that you would like: Serve halved: Cut the cooled squash in half, scoop the seeds out, and top with butter and/or seasonings. Serve mashed: Cut the cooled squash in half, scoop the seeds out, and then scoop the mashed potato squash flesh out. You can serve as is or whip with butter and sour cream for a more classic mashed potato flavor.
Mashed potato squash pairs well with a stew or roast!