Ornamental Separator

An Age-Old Crush

By Barbara Rust Brown

Squash has been part of the human diet for centuries, so it’s no surprise that it is among the first plants to be domesticated in America.

It’s also no surprise that squash comes in dozens of varieties, often characterized by softer-skinned summer staples and their more rigid-shelled winter cousins.

“Summer squash such as yellow squash and zucchini can be grown in the vegetable garden along with other plants,” notes Wesley Greene in Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way. But he cautions that winter squash “are best given a garden of their own,” because they need plenty of water and lots of room to spread and grow.

The Williamsburg Inn’s executive chef, Travis Brust, says there are numerous varieties of winter squash that are perfect for hearty dishes in the chilly months. Their color and versatility lend themselves to soups, pies and custards or served baked and mashed with butter and brown sugar.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” Brust said. “I first encountered kuri squash at the Williamsburg Farmers Market in Merchants Square about five years ago.” They are part of the Hubbard group of squash, which have been known to produce very large plants, according to Greene. Sometimes, members of this squash family can weigh more than 40 pounds.

Kuri squash are orange and round and full of nutrients. They look like a small pumpkin, often weighing in at around 5 pounds. Native to Japan, they are readily available at farmers markets or the grocery store, where they are usually found in a bin with other varieties of winter squash.

“We don’t find many recipes for squash in Colonial-era cookbooks,” said Historic Foodways apprentice Tiffany Fisk. “Squash were often boiled and put in a pudding or mashed and served with butter and salt.” They weren’t considered a delicacy by wealthy Colonial Virginians, who fed squash to their farm animals.

Today, winter squash is grown in the Colonial Garden, the Prentis Garden and the Palace Garden in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

Fisk’s recipe is taken from an English cookbook published in 1671. It looks like a traditional pumpkin pie, but instead of an orange pumpkin, she uses a cushaw squash, a winter variety that is green and white and has a long, curved neck. Cushaw squash may be substituted for pumpkins in any favorite recipe.

Barbara Rust Brown is a freelance writer from Williamsburg, Virginia.


Roasted Red Kuri Squash and Tuscan Kale Salad with Parmesan Dressing

Williamsburg Inn

Makes 4 servings

For the squash:

  • 1 red kuri squash
  • 2 tablespoons whole butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • ¼ teaspoon whole nutmeg, grated
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel and seed the red kuri squash and slice into ¾-inch wedges.
  3. Melt the butter and honey together in a small pan with the cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Place the squash on a baking sheet, cut side up, and baste the squash with the butter mixture.
  5. Lightly season with the salt and pepper and roast in the oven until golden brown and soft throughout, 18 to 20 minutes. If the skin is difficult to cut, you may need to increase the cooking time.
  6. Remove the squash from the oven and cool to warm; then use for building the salad.

For the salad:

  • 1 roasted red kuri squash
  • 4 cups Tuscan kale, chopped
  • 1 cup Parmesan dressing
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup walnuts, roasted and chopped
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds

For the dressing (makes 2 cups):

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup ground Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.
  2. Chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.
  3. Toss squash, kale, cranberries, walnuts and pomegranate seeds with chilled dressing and serve.

Cushaw Squash Pie

Historic Foodways

Serves 6-8

  • ½ pound cushaw squash, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh rosemary, thyme, sweet marjoram and parsley, chopped
  • ½ whole nutmeg, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2-3 apples
  • ¼ pound butter, sliced
  • 1 cup medium dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 4-8 tablespoons currants that have been soaked in water or wine
  • 6 egg yolks
  • Double pie crust (any favorite pie crust recipe is fine)

  1. Roll out half the pie crust and line a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. Thinly slice squash.
  3. Beat eggs and add the herbs and spices. Grate in about half a nutmeg. Whisk until frothy.
  4. Add the sugar.
  5. Melt 2–3 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Add the squash and pour the egg mixture over it. (This is the fraize.)
  6. Heat until the eggs have set. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  7. Put the fraize into the pie plate.
  8. Sprinkle currants on top.
  9. Peel, core and slice the apples, and layer on top of the currants.
  10. Dot with ½ cup of butter and lay the top crust on the pie.
  11. Press and crimp the edges. Cut a few slashes to let out the steam and decorate crust as desired.
  12. Bake at 375 degrees for 35–45 minutes until crust is golden brown.
  13. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, over low heat, combine six egg yolks and the white wine. Heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat.
  14. While the pie is still hot, cut the top crust into large pieces and remove them carefully, and pour the egg yolk caudle into the pie. Return the crust pieces.
  15. Let the pie rest for 10–15 minutes so the caudle can set. The heat of the pie will cook the yolks.

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