How to Prepare a Hokkaido Pumpkin and Other Squash Tips

We’re back again, I’m trying my hand, once more, at writing a tutorial. As with the last I’ll open with the honest truth that I’m probably not the world’s best teacher or even a half-way decent one, but I’ll give it a go regardless. Simply put I’ve gone through three of these squash and although they’re nothing complicated, and they don’t require specialised equipment, they can be daunting to beginners. I’d be a shame if you were to see a recipe here and shy away from it because you felt you wouldn’t be able to prepare the ingredients needed. This is primarily a guide for Hokkaido Pumpkin, or Red Kuri Squash, but I’ll add a few tips for Butternut, Harlequin, probably even Spaghetti as we make our way through the steps. As with the last guide it follow the format of a photo with the basic instruction and then an elaboration and any relevant information below that.I never know how useful these posts will be, but if I’d never taken the risk of putting up the recipes then I may never have had so many people see them and possibly find a use for them. I’m just doing my small part to return what help I was given. Now without further ado onto the squash.

Step 1:

Choosing a squash: What to look for.

Okay this just my personal experience, so take it all as advice just from one person. Firstly you should look for a small to medium sized squash, in the case of Hokkaido Pumpkin that’s about a four pound (1800g) pumpkin, the reason for not getting a huge squash is that the largest of a variety can have a duller taste, somewhat like Summer squash which are best eaten small. I’ve found that large butternut had a duller colour and much less flavour, this is possibly due to them being force grown to be larger, with the Hokkaido Pumpkin all of them were of a similar size so I can’t say how the size affect the taste of this, but the butternut would be a fair rule of thumb. Second you’ll want a hollow sound when rapped with a knuckle as this is the indicator of a healthy squash, I know that sounds odd, you’d imagine a hollow sound would be bad. Lastly look for discolourations, but be aware that some squash naturally have different colour patches where they’ve rested on the ground, like say acorn squashes’ orange patches on green. With the Hokkaido Pumpkin I found some had a grey fuzz on some of the skin, probably harmless, but the skin is thin and you’re better to be safe than sorry.

Step 2:

Top and tail the squash.

This goes for all squash, just cut off, using a very sharp knife, the top and bottom. The bottom is where the squash was connected to the plant originally all the way back to when it was a blossom. The top should be intact, if not it may be spoiled, probably rare to see it in a store without a stem, but if you’re buying it relatively fresh don’t buy it without an intact stem.

Step 3:

Cut in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres.

With a butternut you should also cut off the top part and then split the bulbous bottom as it’s more convenient. Don’t leave any fibres if you can help it as they’re stringy and really will make a mess of any dish it’s used in. If you’re saving the seeds then scoop it all into a bowl and fill with water. A spoon will do fine for this. I’ll tell you what to do with the seeds later.

Step 4:

Peel the squash or leave whole if roasting.

Now here’s the first diverging point. If you want you could just roast the whole squash, the skin is supposed to be edible, but it looked rather tough to me. Thicker rinded squash like butternut and pumpkin’s skin can’t be eaten. You can just scoop the roasted flesh from the squash when you’re finished or go to the next step and see another method for roasting. When peeling it you have two choices: Either use a potato peeler if the skin is thin enough or cut it into wedges and carve off the thick rind with a knife. Try the peeler and if it gets stuck, use the knife. You may have to run a peeler over it a few times. You can see there was a lot of green under the rind that needed to be peeled away, with butternut it can be white under the rind, which after a second peeling will show the orange flesh.

Step 5:

Cut up the squash into fairly even pieces

Above: If sautéing cut a square chunk, then half it and half the halves again for even pieces.

Fairly self-explanatory. The best way to do this is to cut the squash into one inch chunks, in this case a crescent moon, in a butternut: circles and for a harlequin: wedges. This enables you to cut the squash evenly which will help when cooking. As I mentioned before you can also roast the squash pieces, they will take a few hours and they will reduce to about to 1/4 of their original weight, at least with butternut. I prefer to steam the squash as it doesn’t lose moisture and when used in baked goods tastes the same as roasted, at least to me. In saying that roasted squash is delicious as it brings out the inherent sweetness of any squash and the Hokkaido Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet squash.

Step 6:

Cook it up.

Left: Steamed. Right: Uncooked.

Sautéed squash with some Sweet Potato Seasoning.

I don’t actually have a steamer so I just pop my colander in a pot and cover it with a lid. You want to cook the squash until tender, but don’t cook it until mushy as this will impair the taste of the squash and make it watery. If you decide to roast it you’ll find that there’s a slightly chewy outer layer which may be better blended if using in a purée, whereas you can just mash steamed squash. Sauté it the same way as Sweet Potatoes.

Step 7:

Mash or blend the squash.

As I said above I prefer to just mash it using a potato masher, but you could blend it up. If you’re using it in multiple applications you can scoop it out into containers, or just onto a lined tray, and pop it into the freezer then remove the frozen portions and transfer to a bag. If you just want it as a savoury mash then I like a little salt and pepper, maybe some butter, but I prefer it without. So that’s the squash sorted, if you want to roast the seeds check below. Maybe you’ll use it like Butternut in my Vegetable bread, with a Hokkaido Pumpkin variation available or just in some Smoothies, whatever you do it’ll get easier the more you practice carving these wonderful versatile vegetables.

Step 8:

Separate the seeds from the pulp.

This is the most time consuming part and it can vary in worth depending on the seeds used. I found the Hokkaido Pumpkin seeds tough, but tasty. What you’re best to do is let them soak in water, I have heard of boiling the pulp to loosen it up too, and then, wearing gloves or you’ll end up with orange hands, squeeze the seeds free from the pulp as best you can, you won’t get it all off, but you’ll want to remove as much as possible. I had to re-wash the seeds with the Hokkaido Pumpkin, but never with a Butternut Squash. There are a lot more seeds in a Hokkaido Pumpkin so it’s better to be thorough. They float so you can use a slotted spoon to catch quite a few.

Step 9:

Dry the seeds, toss in oil with salt or seasoning and spread onto a lined tray.

I dried mine on a tea-towel, just rub them until they’re dry. What spices you choose to use are entirely up to you, I like them simply salted tossed in a little olive oil. It’s really a matter of taste. Some of the fibres will cling as you can see, but these aren’t that noticeable when baked and do impart a little extra flavour.

Step 10:

Roast the seeds and let cool.

I do have a Roasted Seed recipe, but it varies with the seeds. These baked at 250c (Fan) for 20 minutes. Sometimes the seeds pop when done, but these didn’t, just roast until golden, test and return to the oven if you feel they’re not done enough. They’ll take a slight golden hue when roasted, so that’s a handy indicator off doneness. These should keep for a few days in a sealed container, but they never last that long in our house.

So that’s it. Ten steps to a prepared squash. Hopefully everything was clear and concise. I may not have covered every contingency, but even if this guide made you seek out another then it’s still worthwhile, isn’t it? This isn’t hard, but it can be daunting to try something new and strange. It’ll open up new experiences so you should always take the plunge when it comes to trying new foods, we’re limited by so much, it’d be a shame if fear limited us more. That’s it for now, see you soon.

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