ADAMS — One of fall's treats — right up there with apple cider and pumpkin everything — is freshly harvested winter squash. Varieties of winter squash include acorn, buttercup, butternut, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, sweet dumpling and turban.
"All winter squash do store well," said Meg Bantle, co-owner and operator of Full Well Farm on East Road, Adams. "They're cured in the field or out in the barn to evaporate excess moisture and concentrate the sugars. The length of time depends on the squash, with acorn having no curing time." With no curing time, she said, acorn squash has a shorter storage time as opposed to other varieties.
Full Well Farm grows three varieties of winter squash, Bantle said — acorn, delicata and honey nut.
Acorn, so named for its acorn-like shape, is a medium-size squash with green skin and orange to yellow flesh, Bantle said. "It's mild-tasting as compared to pumpkin, and is not as squashy."
According to Bantle, acorn squash has a short storage period, around 2 1/2 months when kept in a dry storage area, like the counter, and not refrigerated.
This season, Bantle said the farm grew a new variety of winter squash — honey nut.
"It looks like butternut, but is smaller," she said. "It has a very sweet taste — a sweeter and denser flavor than butternut." She added, "I like it for its smaller size."
Like acorn squash, honey nut squash can be stored in a cool dry storage area for up to three months. Because of its small size, it's also easier to cut.
Bantle described delicata squash as an oblong, cream-colored, squash striped in green or orange, that is thinner skinned than other varieties. "It's a bit more starchy than honey nut. It has a nice thin skin that you can eat."
So, how do you pick put a good squash when at the market or farm stand?
"With acorn and delicata squash, look for the orange spot — the ground spot — where the squash was resting as it matured," Bantle said. "It means the squash is ripe. Also, make sure the squash isn't soft," Bantle said. "Honey nut squash should have a nice tan color; they are green before they ripen."
According to Bantle, one of her favorite ways to cook acorn squash is to cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Put butter or oil on the flesh and bake, face down, in a 350-degree F oven until soft, around 30 to 45 minutes.
When cooking delicata squash, Bantle said her favorite way was to cut the stem and butt ends off the oblong squash and then slice it down the resulting tube, making 1/4-inch rounds, leaving the seeds and the skin in place. Oil the rounds with vegetable oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the rounds with salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the seeds are starting to get crunchy, flipping the rounds halfway through the baking time.
"The flesh is really sweet and is great with the crunchy pumpkin seed-style center," she said.
MAPLE-ROASTED DELICATA SQUASH WITH BACON
Recipe courtesy of The Kitchen
2 medium delicata squash
2 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Trim 2 medium delicata squash: Cut each in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick half moons and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut 2 slices thick-cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the baking sheet. (Kitchen scissors work best for cutting up the bacon into pieces quickly.)
Drizzle the squash and bacon with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread in an even layer.
Roast, flipping halfway through, until the squash is tender and caramelized and the bacon is crisp, about 25 minutes total. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley leaves, if desired.
ROASTED HONEY NUT SQUASH
2 Honey nut squash
1 Tablespoon of butter
Cinnamon, to taste
Maple syrup, local honey, or brown sugar, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a knife, split the squash in half lengthwise. Scrap out the seeds with a spoon. Brush with olive oil and place, cut-side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or more depending on the size. Poke with a fork or use your finger to touch the squash. It should feel soft but not collapsed.
When cooked, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Turn the squash over and put a dab of butter in each. Sprinkle to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Add a pinch of cinnamon, and a taste of either maple syrup, local honey, or brown sugar. You can serve right away, or reheat in a hot oven when ready to serve.
STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
Recipe courtesy of Delish.com
3 small acorn squash
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup farro
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons apple cider, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut each end off squash and halve. Use a spoon to remove seeds and brush all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, combine farro with 2 cups cider, 1 cup water, and thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated and farro is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. If your liquid is evaporated and farro is not yet tender, add more water a ¼ cup at a time. Remove thyme sprigs.
Make the filling: in a large skillet over medium heat, heat remaining oil. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally until golden and cooked through, 5 minutes. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel lined plate.
Drain most fat from the skillet, reserving about 1 tablespoon for cooking. Add onion and celery and cook until soft, 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and chopped thyme and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
Add kale and cook, stirring frequently. Add remaining 2 tablespoons cider after 4 minutes of cooking, then cook 4 minutes more, or until kale is tender.
(Note: Stuffing mixture can be made ahead of time then put in the squash once it's roasted.)
Add cooked farro and sausage to skillet with vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Divide mixture among the 6 squash halves. Switch oven to broil and broil until tops are golden and filling is warmed, 2 to 3 minutes.