SQUASH/PUMPKIN LEATHER RECIPE
Cook and puree. For each 2 c. puree, add 1/2 c. honey, 1/4 t. cinnamon, and 1/8 t. each of nutmeg and cloves. (Other options: Combine with apple puree. For spices, substitute ginger and pumpkin pie spice. Sweeten with white or dark corn syrup rather than honey. For each 1 c. steamed squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato, add 1c. mashed banana, 1 t. pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 t. vanilla and 1/2 c. chopped nuts; dry like a fruit leather.) Spread the drying tray (or whatever you use) with plastic, or oil in it. If you use plastic, make sure some hangs off the edges. Spread the paste on the surface and set it out to dry. When it's done you can just peel the plastic backing away.
Freezing. Cut open your winter squash or pumpkin. Remove stringy fibers and seeds (save them for seed or snacks). Cut into pieces and cook until soft in as little boiling water as possible. Or steam in a pressure cooker or bake in the oven. You can bake a whole big squash; it takes about 2 hours. Then you cut open, remove seeds, and mash. Or bake or boil sections and, after the squash is cooked, scrape off the rind and mash the insides (use a masher or rotary colander or push through a sieve). (Using a masher is by far the easiest way.) Then package and freeze. There's no good way to cool it, so just don't put more in the freezer than it can handle each day.
I thaw a big bag of frozen squash in a frying pan with a little water, butter, and honey. Mix well and serve hot. Substitute for sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving or at any other time. Around here, squash is much cheaper and easier to grow than sweet potatoes. You can use it pies or add it to bread dough.
Drying. Pioneer Americans dried pumpkin a lot. Their method was generally to slice the pumpkin around in circles, scrape out the seeds and strings, peel it, and let the circles hang in the air, out of direct sunshine, until they were dried. Another method: Cut into small pieces, seed, peel, cut into 1-inch strips, and cut those 1/4 inch thick. Or shred it. Dry until tough.
Canning. Wash; remove seeds. Cut into chunks and peel. Cut the peeled chunks into 1-inch cubes. Add just enough water to cover. Boil 2 minutes. Optional: Add salt. Put chunks into clean canning jar. Pour cooking liquid over, leaving 1 inch headspace. Caution: Do not mash or puree before canning. Process pints 55 minutes, quarts 90 minutes, in pressure canner only.
[Adapted from the "Squashes" section of Chapter 4: Garden Vegetables. Illustration copyright 1994 by Cindy Davis.]