If you are like most gardeners in Northwestern Ohio, the last few warm days have allowed you to walk through your gardens in Lima to harvest the last few survivors of your garden produce. This will allow you to pick the last few acorn squash from the vines before the snow set’s in. The acorn squash is a versatile crop that keeps well over the winter with basic refrigeration methods, but my Wife and I have found that we can store it 1-2 years if we dehydrated the squash which removes the stored water within the squash. Let me explain how we do that.
I planted two bush variety acorn squash plants this year with plans for eating and storage only, so the plants used were a hybrid because there were no plans to save the seeds for replanting next year. If you plan to save the seeds, an open pollinated variety should be used. But this should not stop you from cleaning and roasting the seeds for a healthy snack if you like. The squash were small at 1-2 pounds when fully developed which is on the small side, but suitable for my Wife and I to enjoy with an evening meal.
The squash were washed, cut in half using an electric knife as they are difficult to cut with a regular knife. I consider this to be a safety issue, so please be careful if you use a regular knife. The seeds were scooped out along with the soft center, leaving the firmer flesh around the edge of the squash. The squash were placed on a flat cookie sheet, covering them with foil to keep them from burning in the oven. The oven was preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 177 degree Celsius. The trays of squash were placed into the oven for approximately 30 minutes, I wanted to soften the squash but not quite fully cook the squash all the way through. This will shorten the final cooking time but still allow us to handle the squash easily before placing the squash into the dehydrator. The squash was allowed to fully cool at which point the outer skin was cut away from the squash leaving only the golden inner flesh remaining. Our plans are to use the squash for roasting with our root vegetables, soups and stews, and occasionally mashing. So the squash was cut into ½ to ¾ (13-19 mm) inch squares. The golden cubes of squash were placed directly onto the dehydrator trays and then placed into a heated dehydrator at 125 degrees for approximately 12 hours. Depending on your particular model of dehydrator, the time will vary. But you want the squash squares to be dry and hard, they should not be pliable or bendable at all. An oven can be used to dry the squash, although this is not the preferred method. The oven should be set on the lowest setting available.
When completely dry and cool, the squash squares may be placed in a glass jar for storage. Our method is to place in a glass canning jar, and then use a vacuum sealer to vacuum out the remaining air from the jar. This will extend the life for several years. You may also use a Mylar bag and vacuum seal if you like. Ziploc bags do not sufficiently seal to keep moisture out for a long period of time, this is a last resort or when I plan to use the dehydrated item within a short period of time. Remember when you re-hydrate the squash to soak in water for 15-30 minutes if you plan to use as mashed or roasted. You can through it directly into a soup if you are using a crock pot or a stove top recipe.