Summer is peak season for zucchini and other summer squash, and if you have a garden -- or neighbors with gardens -- you may have more squash than you know what to do with. Freezing is a simple way to preserve this summer bounty and you can enjoy the warm weather vegetable during the cold days of winter. The process is similar for later-ripening winter squash such as butternut, Hubbard, acorn and pumpkin. However, zucchini and other summer squash must be blanched to stop enzymatic activity, while winter squash is cooked and mashed or pureed.
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Zucchini and Summer Squash
Scrub zucchini and other summer squash with a vegetable brush, then cut the squash into 1/2-inch slices. You can also grate summer squash for baking. Peel the squash and remove the seeds only if the squash is large. Otherwise, leave the peel and seeds intact.
Fill a large saucepan with water. Place the pan on high heat and bring the water to a full boil.
Place 4 to 6 cups of squash in a steamer basket or colander. Immerse the basket in the boiling water.
Set a kitchen timer for 3 minutes as soon as the water returns to a full boil. Alternatively, place the steamer basket above a small amount of boiling water, then steam the squash for 1 to 2 minutes. To steam the squash, be sure the vegetables don't touch the water.
Remove the steamer basket from the pan immediately when the timer rings, then cool the squash rapidly by plunging the basket into a bowl of ice water.
Place the cooled squash in resealable plastic freezer bags or rigid plastic freezer containers. Label the bag or container and freeze the squash immediately.
Cut winter squash into pieces convenient for cooking -- usually chunks measuring 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Use a sturdy metal spoon to remove the seeds.
Place the chunks in boiling water and cook the squash until it is tender and you can easily pierce it with a fork. If you prefer, place the squash in a large colander or steamer basket and steam it over a small amount of simmering water. You can also roast winter squash in the oven or cook it in a microwave oven.
Place the pot of squash in a sink or bowl filled with cold water and allow the squash to cool. Scrape the squash from the rind with a metal spoon, then mash it with a fork or puree it in a blender or food processor.
Place the squash in rigid plastic freezer containers, allowing 1/2 inch of space at the top of each container. You can also put the squash in resealable plastic freezer bags.
Seal the containers securely, then label and freeze.