When squash starts to flood our local farmers market, it’s a surefire sign that summer has arrived. Of course, winter varieties like butternut squash are mealtime standbys during the colder seasons, so one need not wait all year to enjoy this sumptuous fruit. (Fun fact: Squash is technically a fruit because it has seeds—weird, right?) Still, summer squash with its fresh and delicate flavor stands out from the cold weather crowd and blends seamlessly into our repertoire of seasonal recipes (hi, skillet pasta with summer squash, ricotta and basil). So when things start to heat up, we trot straight to the farm stand and scoop up as many zukes and squash as we can carry...and sometimes more than we can realistically eat. Sound familiar? Don’t despair—just follow these steps for how to freeze squash so you can cook and bake with those beauties well into the next season.
1. Wash your produce. Get that stash of summer fruit squeaky clean before you do anything else. First, rinse each squash under cold running water, rubbing gently to remove surface dirt. Transfer the washed squash to a cutting board and remove an inch from both ends.
2. Prep the squash. This part requires some forethought: You’ve got a good haul but before you start hacking it up, consider how you’ll cook with it. After freezing, summer squash will take on a slightly different texture—so don’t prep it with the intention of future raw consumption. Instead, keep your cooking options open by cutting the squash into one-inch-thick cubes or slices. Or if you have big baking plans, you might opt to grate your zukes so you can stir ‘em into muffin batter and more.
3. Set up your station. Your squash is prepped and ready to go but don’t head to the freezer just yet. First, those babies need to be blanched. Why? Because the freezer won’t halt the enzymes responsible for ripening (and spoiling), but a quick dip in boiling water will. To set your squash (and yourself) up for success, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Note: You can throw one to two tablespoons of salt into the water—but only if you’ll be using your frozen squash for savory (and not sweet) treats. Finally, prepare an ice bath nearby by filling a large bowl with equal parts of ice and cold water.
4. Blanch away. Once your pot of water is roiling, you’re ready to roll. Use a mesh basket or slotted spoon to plunge your summer squash into the boiling water or let them float freely. (Mesh baskets are good blanching buddies because they make it a cinch to strain your food and can save you from a splash of scalding water.) Make sure the cubes of squash are completely submerged. For grated squash, don’t submerge—instead, steam for two minutes by attaching a steaming basket to the pot of boiling water. It shouldn’t take long for the water to return to a boil and when it does, start the timer. Squash that has been cut into one-inch-thick pieces should blanch for five minutes.
5. Cool the squash. As soon as the recommended blanching time has elapsed, remove the squash from the boiling water and send them directly to the prepared ice bath. Swirl the pieces around in the water to cool them quickly and evenly. If you blanched a large batch, you may need to add more ice cubes after introducing your squash to the ice bath. Once the squash is completely cool, strain thoroughly and set aside.
6. Flash freeze. Much like blanching, flash freezing plays an important part in protecting the long-term quality and freshness of your frozen squash. Line a large baking tray with wax paper and spread the blanched and cool squash out in a single layer. Transfer the tray to the freezer and leave them there until they’re frozen solid (roughly two oto four hours).
7. Store the veggies fruits. Remove the tray of frozen squash from the freezer and transfer your pieces of fruit to plastic freezer or vacuum-seal bags. If you’re storing your squash in a standard Ziploc, be sure to squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing each bag. So how many months of deliciousness did you buy yourself? Vacuum-sealing will keep frozen squash fresh for a full year but even a basic plastic storage bag will keep your summer squash sweet and fresh for three months.
How Do I Use Frozen Squash?
Squash will inevitably take on a slightly different texture and color during its stint in the freezer but the subtly-sweet, vegetal character will survive to enhance many a meal. With frozen squash, it’s best to steer clear of salads and raw snacking and introduce some heat instead. Send squash straight from the freezer to the stove—saute and use in rice bowls and pasta dishes, or add some eggs to the skillet for a flavorful zucchini frittata. As for grated squash, incorporate it into dough for savory breads or into batter for fritters and baked goods. The takeaway? Your squash may be a little less firm after freezing but it’s still living its best life.