fermented pumpkin

Tips for Fermenting Pumpkins and other Winter Squash

Fermenting pumpkins and other winter squash

You can make delicious fermented condiments with winter squash. You might ask why ferment winter squash? It keeps so well. The main reason is it is delicious and sometimes, if you’ve had an abundant harvest, you are sick of eating squash soup.

Way back, fermenting winter squash was one of our first forays moving beyond cabbage and basic kraut. Our neighbors grew beautiful blue Hubbard squash for seed. The organically grown seeds were the crop and the thick wall of rich flesh that surrounded the seed was the waste. We had our small farm-to-kraut company at the time and didn’t want to see all that organic food go to waste. So, we took buckets and buckets of cracked squash home and began to trial methods and flavors to ferment it.

We learned immediately placing cubes in a salt water brine and pickling them was not the way to go, which didn’t keep us from fermenting the whole jack-o-lantern this year. (As an aside here is a fun history of the pumpkin's roll in history and fairy tales. Including a mention of the pilgrims fermenting this squash into a pumpkin libation.)

While it might be too late for you to ferment your own jack-o-lantern this year, it is not too late in the season to ferment some winter squash.

Tips for making your own fermented squash recipe:

  •    For best results, choose winter meaty varieties of squash with the drier sweeter flesh—think Kobucha, Hubbard, Butternut. The lighter yellow, wetter flesh like pie/jack-o-lantern pumpkins and Delicata work but will leave you with a softer, wetter ferment.
  •    You can mix shredded squash with cabbage for a squash kraut.
  •    You can slice squash in thin slices and combine with other thinly sliced veggies.
  •    Dry brine for best results. This means using the salt that you add to the thinly-sliced or grated vegetable to get the brine, not adding brine made with salt and water. We like to use a 1.5%–2% salt ratio by vegetable weight for fermenting squash. This means for 3 – 3 ½ pounds of squash you will use a tablespoon of fine salt. In warmer climates, you may even have to boost up that ratio a little bit more. *Remember salt helps control the ferment, it helps keep the crisp and slows down the fermentation in warm weather.
  •    Use smoky, warm, and earthy spices—chipotle, turmeric, ginger—to compliment your creation.

Here’s a simple chutney to get your creative ideas flowing. If you make something wonderful we love to hear about it. Share on the comments or post on Instagram and tag us @ferment.works.

Squash Chutney

Makes a quart

4 cups shredded winter squash

1–2 tablespoons salt

½ cup raisins

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tablespoon sweet curry powder

½ cup shredded carrot (optional)

Process in the usual way taking care to make sure the squash is submerged. Allow to ferment for one to three weeks. It is done when you smell that wonderful pickle acidity. You can store refrigerated for 6–8 months—if you don’t eat it first.




Pumkins in the Pantry

Lacto-fermentation Pumpkin Trials

It is the day after Halloween and the valley around me is waking up. The sun is just peeping over the ridge. It is reflecting off the gold and orange that is briefly dominating our landscape. Because we are in predominately conifer forest, this time of year the deciduous trees have just a few weeks to sing out their presence. As I look across the valley it appears as if there are many small bonfires scattered through the forest where the individual maples or oaks flame in their autumn color. The winding creek that rushes through the center of the valley is a ribbon of saffron yellow, and the female madrone trees are heavy with their small orange fruit. We string these like beads, they drape the windows were they will dry and decorate the view in the coming grey days.

Orange is considered a color that embodies the warmth of the sun and that is how is exactly how it feels to me. I have the sense that we are soaking up all that warmth to last us through the winter. This is especially happening in the pantry; the sweet meat winter squash and cinderella pumpkins are tucked on the slatted shelves and waiting to feed us slowly in the coming months. In the crocks there are squash krauts and pumpkin chutneys curing; they will add spice and comfort when served with hearty soups.

The photo I have chosen is from the squash and pumpkin trials I conducted a few years ago. From left to right: The chipotle squash kraut was amazing. The holiday kraut with pickled cranberries was also delicious. The squash chutney--definitely nice. The beautiful pumpkin pickles with cranberries--a disaster. The flavor was fine, the squishy chunks--well not so much.

I thought I would share our Holiday Kraut on this entry. It is a fun change to add to the Thanksgiving table.  Any winter squash will work though I prefer the sweet meat types of  squash. The first time I made it I began with whole cranberries that I had previously pickled. Now I make both ferments at the same time, and mix them together after they have both cured.

Pickled Cranberries

makes about a quart (assuming two 8-oz packages of cranberries

1 - 2 packages fresh cranberries (one is enough, two will give you extra)
a few slices fresh ginger, or candied ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
brine: 1/4 cup salt to 1/2 gallon spring water
Place all of the ingredients into a crock or jar. Cover with the prepared brine. Be sure to use a weight that will keep all of the cranberries submerged. They really want to float, which makes sense since they are harvested by water that fills the bogs where they grow.
Ferment for 1 - 2 weeks.

Squash Kraut

makes approximately 2 quarts

1 - 2 medium heads cabbage
1 medium sized winter squash
3 - 4 tablespoons salt

Peel and grate the squash. Remove the outer leaves and core of the cabbage. Thinly slice or shred the cabbage.  The goal is to have roughly equal amounts of each.

In a large bowl mix together. Sprinkle in half of the salt and massage until the vegetables start to sweat. Taste. This is to make sure that you do not over salt the kraut. If you cannot taste salt slowly add more.  The goal is to taste the salt in a pleasant salty way, but never to be overwhelmed by the salt. If is good raw, it will be excellent fermented.

Massage the kraut mixture by kneading it with your hands until it is juicy.  Press into a crock or jar.  Make sure all of the vegetable is submerged under the resultant brine. Add weight and cover. On a counter this will ferment in about a week. It will be ready when it is still crunchy and pleasingly acidic.

To serve, mix cranberries into the kraut in a 1:4 ratio -- or whatever pleases you.