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Posts Tagged ‘pumpkin’

Freeze Winter Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden

The Blue Hubbard squash I bought was 24 inches long and it weighed 27 pounds; 7 pounds more than the neck pumpkin it rests on in this photo… and, perhaps, 20 times the weight of the butternut squash from my own garden.

Some months ago I got all excited about winter squash and lamented that the only squash in my small kitchen garden this year was butternut. I bought a huge neck pumpkin at the farmers’ market, and a week later I bought a Blue Hubbard squash as the weekend flea market.

I canned the neck pumpkin in my pressure canner, and presented a two-part written documentary: Exploring Neck Pumpkin at Your Small Kitchen Garden and Can Squash or Pumpkin from Your Home Kitchen Garden. Then I promised readers a look at this amazing Blue Hubbard squash.

It’s been a long time coming, but here’s how I preserved the Blue Hubbard. This method is simple and valid for any winter squash you plan to use in pie fillings. If you want to freeze squash for later use mashed or in casseroles, leave it out of the blender; scoop the cooked squash directly into freezer containers.

I started by cutting off the rotten end of the squash. I removed about a half-inch margin of healthy-looking skin in case the rot had progressed farther through the flesh than what showed on the surface.

The Blue Hubbard Squash Review

I bought my 27 pound pod-people squash for $1.50. This resulted from a 25% discount offered when the seller discovered one end of the squash had started to rot. I had heard that Blue Hubbard is great for pies… but that seems to go for every winter squash I haven’t tried.

While the photographs and their captions tell the story of how to prepare squash for freezing, I didn’t freeze all of the Blue Hubbard. After cooking it, I scooped a sample to taste and was quite pleased. My Blue Hubbard was sweet and very flavorful; it has a much “squashier” flavor than the neck pumpkin. You could serve Blue Hubbard in place of butternut, and few people would notice.

The cut squash was gorgeous. I love the rich pastel orange that fades into pastel green near the rind. When I pressed on the flesh, it gave easily and fluid squirted from it, indicating rot. When I removed another inch of material, the flesh was firm.


I cut the remaining healthy Blue Hubbard squash lengthwise into thirds and picked out all the seeds to plant next year (I hope to give some away or swap with some of my readers). Then I used a spoon to scrape the stringy guts away from the flesh. I’ve no doubt you can eat this stuff, but I’ve never read anything encouraging me to do so.


I had to cut the sections of squash into smaller pieces to get them to fit into one of my largest cook pots. I stood the pieces on edge, and arranged them with air spaces between them. Then I added a few inches of water and covered the pot. It took about 45 minutes for the flesh to become soft all the way through on every piece. I used tongs to remove the squash from the pot, and then I scraped the cooked flesh away from the rind. Even cooked, the subtle pastel colors show in the squash on the spoon in the right-most photo.


Each scoop of cooked squash went into my blender (place the scoops directly into freezer containers if you intend to serve the squash as a vegetable… pureed squash is best for use in baking and soup bases). There was so much squash that I had to run the blender several times. I used the puree setting and made sure there were no chunks remaining in any load. Once I’d filled my largest bowl with pureed squash, I distributed the puree into freezer bags in 16 ounce batches; one bag is the appropriate amount for making a pumpkin pie. I wrote the date on each bag and set them all in the freezer… I’ll be able to make pumpkin pie, bread, cake, soup, and ravioli throughout the year.


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Exploring Neck Pumpkin at Your Small Kitchen Garden

There’s my big boy neck pumpkin on my large cutting board next to my biggest chef’s knife in front of my KitchenAid stand mixer. (Trying to provide a sense of scale.)

While my small kitchen garden lies dormant for the coming winter, I’ve been exploring winter squash. Always a fan of butternut squash, I planted several hills of it this year, and harvested about 25 pounds of fruits. Some were as small as grapefruits while others were about as large as quart jars. For my family, a one-quart butternut squash lasts for two or three meals.

I visit a farmers’ market nearly every Wednesday, and flea market produce vendors on most Sundays. Every autumn, I see a delightful variety of winter squashes. However, happy with my homegrown butternuts, I’ve never explored these others. Until this year.

In my last post, I described a Blue Hubbard squash, the full 27 pounds of which I purchased for $1.50. That post included a photo of a neck pumpkin that weighed in at a hefty 20 pounds. After two weeks of delays, I finally dissected the neck pumpkin. This is one very impressive squash!

I washed the neck pumpkin thoroughly before I started carving so as not to contaminate the squash’s innards with soil that might have remained from the farm where it grew. I cut sections starting at the neck end, and finally cut the bulbous seed chamber in two. A neck pumpkin is almost solid meat.

Gourds from the Amish

The neck pumpkin goes by many names, among them Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash (according to Cornell University’s web site). They are very common in central Pennsylvania—Amish country—and apparently not so common outside of this area.

Neck pumpkins I’ve seen have been as small as a large butternut squash, and even larger than the 20 pound fruit I bought at the farmers’ market three weeks ago.

I understand that neck pumpkin is ideal for making pumpkin pie. Given its resemblance to butternut squash, I imagined it might also be fine for eating as a side dish… and for cooking up in baked goods and other foods that call for pumpkin as an ingredient.

A simple vegetable peeler easily removes the skin from the neck pumpkin. Of course, such a peeler has trouble on very large expanses of skin; curves of the pumpkin interfere with the ends of the peeler. Cutting the neck pumpkin into small sections would reduce the problems of paring it. With the skin removed, I used my largest chef’s knife to cut the sections into one-inch cubes.

Neck Pumpkin Preparation

The photos in this blog post reveal the steps I took to prepare my neck pumpkin for consumption. Actually, I cooked only a half cup of the squash so I could taste it… the rest I canned in quart jars. The canning operation itself, I explain in my other blog, Your Home Kitchen Garden.

Preparing and storing winter squash offers many options: you can steam, boil, bake, roast, and even dry squash. Use a crock pot, a microwave oven, a stove pot, a conventional oven, a grill… it doesn’t matter. However you cook squash, it gets soft and mashable. For a chunkier side dish, peel and cube it before cooking. To save effort, leave the skin on until after cooking… but by the time you scrape the squash out of its skin, you’re likely to have mashed it up quite a bit.

As with cleaning a pumpkin that I’m about to carve into a jack-o-lantern, I used a spoon to scrape the seeds and their anchoring fibers from the squash’s seed cavity. I set the seeds aside to dry; I’ll be growing neck pumpkins from them in my small kitchen garden next year.

For canning, you create one-inch cubes of raw squash which you blanch for only a few minutes before putting them in jars and cooking in a pressure canner. You can use freshly cubed squash in any squash dish… cook peeled and cubed squash any way you want. Most simply, cover some with water in a pot and cook until soft. Pour off the water, mash the squash with a potato masher, and stir in butter and brown sugar to taste.

If you want to can some squash, please enjoy my squash dissection photos, and then head over to Your Home Kitchen Garden for a step-by-step canning review. This one, 20 pound neck pumpkin filled seven quart jars and left about two cups of pumpkin cubes that I used to make bread.

More about neck pumpkins and som excellent ways to use them:


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