Last summer I added winter squash to the regular vegetables I grow in my garden. I adore the taste of it, whether it is Acorn, Delicata, Hubbard or one of the many other varieties. Maybe it’s the way my mom served it; baked in the oven, with a bit of butter, brown sugar and salt. So delicious.
This year I was lucky to get a portion of a community garden, so with part of the ground I planted several hills of Hubbard and Banana squash. With great surprise I harvested over three hundred pounds! I harvested 23 squashes and most of them were between 10 and 15 pounds each. The biggest was 26 pounds. My friends and family were dazed with the onslaught of squash gifts (“how do you cook this thing?” “How do you eat this much squash?”). Clearly something had to be done to use up the bounty.
Along with my friends and family, I too was baking squashes, and in the process made a very interesting discovery. When the squash was baked and tender, I turned the oven off and left it in until it was fully cooled many hours later. On the bottom of the pan was a small pool of a golden-colored syrupy substance. It was distinctly sweet tasting. Not slightly sweet; just really sweet like sugar, like maple syrup, like honey. With the unmistakable flavor of squash.
So I thought I would get serious and make a project of creating squash molasses; something sweet enough to put on toast or muffins or pancakes, and enough of it to actually use.
This recipe makes a few small bottles of molasses.
It also makes enough squash puree to make two to four “pumpkin” pies
Squash to use: any sweet-meat winter squash such as hubbard, delicata, acorn, butternut, or banana.
Peel and cube 10 – 20 pounds of winter squash. Place in a large pot and add water until almost covering the cubed squash. Bring to a boil, then simmer until very tender, 30 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool; do not drain.
Wash thoroughly and place on a jelly roll pan or large cake pan, a 10 – 20 pound winter squash. Bake at 400 degrees for two to three hours or until soft to the touch. Turn off the oven and allow the squash to cool in the oven. Peel and remove the seeds, and put the squash meat into a large pot. This method will result in less liquid than the boiling method.
Once cool, use an immersion blender to make a smooth puree. Pour the puree into a large bowl that has been lined with a cloth (to make a good straining cloth, use 100% polyester chiffon, lightweight 100% cotton, muslin, or three or four layers of fine-weave cheesecloth). Pull up the corners of the cloth, then twist the ends to form a bag with the squash inside; the liquid will be sieving through the cloth. Take a few minutes to massage the cloth bag to get as much liquid out as possible. This will make the squash puree inside the bag very thick, which will make excellent pies, and will give you lots of liquid to make the molasses.
The liquid that is strained out is sweet. I mean distinctly sweet. You could drink it for juice, it’s a very surprising taste. Put all the squash liquid into a very large open pot and boil it for hours – depending on how high the heat, could be from three to eight hours, until it has reduced down to a thick syrup. You must be very careful at the end; lower the heat as it gets thicker until at the end it is on the lowest heat possible. The last few minutes, stir constantly and watch carefully so it does not burn. Take it off the heat when it reaches the thickness you desire; like maple syrup or even as thick as honey. Keep in mind that the thicker the syrup, the darker it is.
Pour it into very small jars and give to special people. It is excellent served as:
• a dip for carrots, jicama or celery
• poured over a block of cream cheese with a side of crackers
• a “jam” for peanut butter sandwiches
Keep refrigerated. Keeps for a month refrigerated.
More homemade gift ideas from Jeanne:
Triple Cheese Beer Spread Crispie Almonds Membrillo Savory Herb Rub