Friday, March 4, 2016

Winter Squash

   Before the day of electricity and refrigeration the storage of foods for winter consumption was a chancy business. Most homes, either town or country had a root cellar where it was dark and cool with an over all constant temperature above freezing. If one was lucky enough to have access to a natural cave these were used for winter food storage. During bitter weather none of these gave the easy access of opening the refrigerator or freezer door. Often the door to the basement or root cellar was placed close to the door opening into the kitchen.
   Fall's bounty stored in a root cellar gets sparse when the early days of March roll around. Foods like potatoes, onions, and apples take on a wither crinkly appearance. Carrots, turnips, and cabbages have been dug from their straw pits.
   Winter squashes were a staple in root cellar preservation, their hard leathery skins protected the meat from an early demise. The late fall winter squashes we find today in the grocery have thick skins, but they are no where near as tough as earlier varieties before the seed companies began work to produce easier products to use.
  A lesser know and tougher member of the squash family is the cushaw. Its skin is hard and I mean hard, which contributes to its lasting longer than the others. The seeds for this vegetable have been passed down through families and friends. It is a mottled green with a crooked neck that grows quite large. The first time I encountered this particular squash I had to take it out in the backyard and use an ax to cut the tough shell. Several years ago, a friend gave me one from her garden and it lasted on our glassed in porch til early March.
   The very firm flesh can be used much like potatoes, doctored like pumpkin for pies, pureed and make into a fine spread for hot biscuits or toast the same consistency of fine apple butter.
   Cushaw makes a delicious casserole using cooked cubed cushaw, Italian sausage (precooked), cream of celery soup (undiluted), chopped onions & peppers, shredded mix-Italian cheese and Italian herbs & spices. Sorry readers, I seldom measure ingredients or as a friend remarked, years ago, to my dinner guests, "Eat hardy boys, she'll never duplicate the recipe."   

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