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~ How to: Steam a Butternut Squash in the Crockpot~

IMG_2746I love butternut squash and every Fall my husband Joe's garden gifts us with a few beauties. Some are big and some are small -- I love them all.  I love butternut squash sliced raw and baked into casseroles, roasted and mashed or smashed like potatoes or sweet potatoes, or, steamed for puree.  What can I say, I'd love this vegetable even if it wasn't really healthy and good for me, which it is.  Is there anything I don't like about it?  Well, yes there is!  Read on: 

IMG_2706I hate peeling butternut squash!

Admit it -- you do too!

It is a task I usually leave to my husband.  First you have to trim off the pole ends, then peel the skin (technically called the "flesh") from this rock-solid, irregularly-shaped veggie-varmint. Next, you have to continue peeling, to remove the long, green, fibrous veins that run the length of it.  Last, you have to slice it in half lenghwise and scoop out the seeds.  This is a process that, if I were running a prison, I would delegate to the inmates.  It has got to be the biggest reason why people avoid butternut squash!

In some culinary applications, there is no getting around this work, you have to grin and bear it, but, if it's puree you are needing, which I do today, you'll be happy to know there is a better way:

Put the biggest butternut squash you got in the crockpot!!!

IMG_2708I did a double take the first time I heard this astonishing news too:

It was back in the late 1980's-early '90's.  I was the captain of one of The Penn State Tennis Center's six club-level tennis teams.  On the nights the leagues played, everyone on the two teams playing that evening alternated bringing a snack or a beverage to share.  One Fall night, my close friend Becky Yeagley, who was on my team, brought a wonderful butternut squash dip -- a recipe I asked for!

IMG_2731Becky and her husband Hank were both in their 70's at the time and she explained that neither of them wanted to risk their life wrestling with peeling butternut squash anymore. What she told me humorously went kind of like this:  

"One day I got so damned mad I threw the entire thing in the crockpot and cooked the hell out of it for a few hours!"

I for one am grateful she did because over the years I have used her method more times than I can count.  I think you will too!

IMG_2715~ Step 1.  Choose the biggest butternut squash that will fit in your crockpot.

~ Step 2.  Place about 1/2" of water in the bottom of the crockpot.

~ Step 3.  If you have a small rack, place it in the bottom of the pot, otherwise, skip this step.  Note: Becky did not use a rack, placing a "steamer rack" in the bottom just makes me feel better!

IMG_2724~ Step 4.  Line the crockpot with a length of cheesecloth.  Because the squash is going to be very soft after it is steamed, this will serve as the mechanism for easily lifting it from the crockpot.

Note:  Becky used two forks, which works, but, the hot squash tends to want to slip off them.  I invented the cheesecloth method.  It makes it easy, and more importantly, safe!

IMG_2727~ Step 5.  Place the butternut squash in the crockpot.  Place the overlapping ends of the cheesecloth on top of it.  Place the lid on the crockpot.  

~ Step 6.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours, depending upon the size of the squash, until fork tender, checking every 15 minutes after the 3 hour mark.  I already know this squash in my pot takes 3 1/2 hours!

IMG_2737~ Step 7.  Using the cheesecloth as a pair of  handles, carefully lift the squash out of the crockpot, transfer it to a large cutting board and remove the cheesecloth.

Note:  Thank-you husband Joe for doing the lifting so I could take this photo in order demonstrate what I'm talking about.  Cheesecloth is the trick to making this so dang easy!

IMG_2750~ Step 8.  Using a chef's knife, trim off the pole ends and begin slicing thin strips of the butter-soft flesh from the meat.

IMG_2760In about 1 minute, I peeled this entire squash without saying one foul word!

IMG_2769~ Step 9.  Discard the flesh and slice the squash in half lengthwise. Using a tablespoon, scrape out the seeds and stringy fibers.

IMG_2778My perfectly steamed squash is done in a way that doesn't leach out either it's vitamins or minerals.  By adjusting the timing, it can be steamed to any degree of doneness too!

I'm making my Butternut Squash Puree next, so stay tuned! 

IMG_2779How to:  Steam Butternut Squash in the Crockpot:  Recipe yields about 5 cups of steamed and fork-smashed butternut squash.

Special Equipment List:  crockpot; small cooling rack (optional); cheesecloth; large cutting board; paring knife; tablespoon

PICT2619Cook's Note:  I am not "a crockpot kind of girl".  But, when I do use my crockpot it is for the right reasons and recipes.  To try one of my all-time favorite Fall crockpot recipes ~ Winner Winner Crockpot Dinner": Scrumptious, Slow-Cooked Sweet Potato & Ground Beef Chili ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 13, 19 or 20. Guess what?  You can substitute butternut squash for the sweet potatoes!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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