Food Preservation – Squash
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Many people decided to try their luck at gardening this year. If you are one of the successful ones you might be wondering what to do with all the produce you now have. You probably do not want to eat squash every day, so how can you preserve this produce to enjoy over the next few months.
Let us focus on summer squash. Squash can be frozen as a way of preserving it but you cannot just put the whole squash in the freezer, nor can you slice it, bag it and then freeze it. There is an added cooking step that needs to be done to ensure the squash is being frozen safely and to keep a good quality product. The correct way to freeze the squash is to choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut in ½ inch slices. Water blanch for 3 minutes. Blanching is the process of adding a food product to boiling water to stop enzyme activity that could result in loss of taste and blanching helps brighten the color along with removing dirt and other organisms from the product. Once the food item is removed from the water it should be run under cool water or placed in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once cool, drain and package the items in a freezer-safe container leaving ½ inch headspace.
One popular way of preserving produce is to can it. Unfortunately, there is no safe,
kitchen-tested recipe for canning squash or zucchini. If you have a recipe for canning squash it is outdated and should be thrown away. Instead, try pickling your squash. Through the pickling process, vinegar is added to the recipe which raises the acidity level making the product safe to process using the hot water bath method. Always remember when processing through canning to make altitude adjustments.
A less popular way of preserving summer squash is drying. It is not the best vegetable to dry but it can be done. To do so, wash, trim, and cut into ¼ inch slices. Blanch for 30 seconds then dry in a dehydrator for 10-12 hours. If you choose to use an oven for drying, note that drying time will take longer and could possibly take twice as long. Drying until brittle will decrease the moisture percentage to a low enough number where microorganisms cannot grow.
If you are reading this and thinking you are now in the mood to eat squash tonight here is an easy recipe on how you can prepare it from the USDA Choose MyPlate website.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 summer squash (medium, thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon water
- Salt and pepper (optional, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon sweet basil, fresh
- 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese (grated)
- Using a large, ovenproof frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil to medium-high.
- Arrange squash in pan, add water and season lightly with salt, pepper, and basil.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp.
- Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with remaining oil. Place under a preheated broiler and broil until cheese melts and browns slightly.
Tip: Add cut-up fresh tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, eggplant, onions, or other vegetables in season.