Monday, October 10, 2011

Winter Squash

Almost a full week gone.  What a shame.  No, I have not starved to death.  However, I have been working like a crazy fool, which seriously cuts into my blogging time.  Not that I would ever blog from work... because that would be wrong.  Also,  I need my job to afford my food.  No job = No food.  No food = No blog.  So, I work very hard at work!

We've been having quite an Indian Summer for the past week in WI.  It's making me pretty happy, because I had plants and plants full of green tomatoes, and now they're finally ripening.  It also means that there has been lots of produce still coming into the farmers market, which means lots of canning - which means lots of time spent on canning and not spent on blogging.  I am right now behind on telling you about:
  • Corn Salsa
  • Apple Pie Filling (this was my worst canning experience ever, and almost resulted in me swearing off canning forever)
  • Tomatillos
  • Apple/Onion Curry
  • Applesauce
As you can see, lots of apples.  Jeff and I went to Brightonwoods Apple Orchard last Sunday (not like yesterday, but like a week ago yesterday), which was great fall fun.  It wasn't a pick your own, which is fine because we don't have kids and personally picking apples seems like work to me.  I did pick my own apples... out of a bin full of apples!  But, better than picking apples, they also had a winery.  Or, I guess it would better be called a cidery.  We got to do a free tasting of 5 different kinds of apple cider, plus a shot of apple liquor (I had brandy, he had whiskey.)  The full tasting experience - which was a lot of booze and I'm sure would get you completely wrecked - was only $10.  Unfortunately, we were on our way to a family gathering, so fall over drunk was out of the question.

I would like to say that we'll go back this year and get sloppy drunk on fermented apples, but knowing our schedule that seems unlikely.  Hopefully we can get back next year.

I also stocked up on local hard cider.  Local adult beverages have been a bit of a challenge, because I don't like beer - which I believe officially qualifies me for the Worst Milwaukee Locavore Award - and because I'm pretty snobbish about my wine.  WI does make a good deal of local wine, as sampled this year at the State Fair, however very little of it is made out of grapes, and none of it is what I would consider good.  Drinkable, maybe (if they're lucky), but certainly not good.

Because it's been so nice, I haven't broken down my garden yet.  Those of you who live in the Midwest know that this is pretty risky.  The forecast for tomorrow might be 70 degrees right now, but that doesn't mean it's not going to change it's mind and be a blizzard instead.  Seasons change pretty fast around here, and often with no warning.

It is really good for curing squash, though, or so I've read.  I've never grown winter squash before, but I would highly recommend it for someone with the room.  Or, for someone like me, who wants to pretend they have the room.  I actually trained my squash vines to go around the outside of my garden, sharing space with the strawberries - since those are done anyway.  This made for a bit of a problem with mowing the lawn when they got out of control, but mowing the lawn is my husbands job anyway, so my level of caring was at a minimum.

I'm growing butternut, buttercup, and honey nut squash, and I've got at least three or four of each.  Actually, considering the amount of vines I have hiding in places I really can't reach, I may have more than that.  I'm expecting to find quite a few when I finally do break the garden down.

I know that winter squash is something that I should be able to store for an extended period.  It's something that the farmers had at the winter farmer's market up through Christmas if I remember right.  It should last.  But how?

I've been researching curing squash.  The trick!

From what I've read so far, the best way to cure squash is to hold it at a consistent 70 degrees for 15 days.  Uh, yeah.  How am I supposed to do that?   Am I supposed to have a temperature controlled curing room?  I've got stories from people with blogs like mine that say they store them in their living room, or on their kitchen counter, or in a special box nestled up against their furnace... but all of those posts also have comments along the lines of "You idiot!  That's not how to cure a squash!  You're going to burn your house down!!" (For the record, I would love comments of any kind, so if you want to leave me a comment that you think I'm an idiot and that I'm going to burn my house down, feel free.  But you probably want to leave it on this post.)

The other option I found, though, was to let the squash sit on the vine as long as possible and hope for warm weather late in the season.  Then, only pick the squash and bring it in just prior to the first frost.  This technique is working out for me very well this year, although I don't know how I could guarantee success in future years...

Anyway, this squash was not mine.  I did not grow spaghetti squash - not sure why, as it's always been my favorite squash.  Spaghetti squash is very easy to prepare.  Just cut the squash in half the long way, drizzle the inside with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the cut side down into a glass baking pan (this squash was big, so I had to use two baking pans) and bake at 350 degrees until the outside of the squash is soft to the touch.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and then run a fork across the squash from side to side.  This will release the fibers in a way that causes them to look like strands of spaghetti.

At this point, you can do anything with the spaghetti squash that you would normally do with cooked pasta.  For this recipe, I melted about 2 tbsp of butter,  and sauteed 1 clove of minced garlic.  Once the garlic was just starting to turn golden, I added in the squash and stirred it around to break the pieces up further and mix in the butter.  I added about 1 tbsp of chopped basil, and seasoned again with salt and pepper.  I topped the squash with honey goat cheese, and some wilted Kale.  A delicious, easy, vegetarian meal! 100% local except for the salt and pepper.

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