Top of the mornin’ to you. You can tell fall is here when Food becomes obsessed with apples. This week, Dave McIntyre departs from his usual topic of wine to explore the world of hard cider and the people who make it. Tim Carman tells you about no-spray organic apples. And, of course, we have tons of apple recipes for you.

Also this week, Regina Schrambling tells you why the eggs Benedict you make (easily!) at home are better than anything you can get in a restaurant. And superstar chef Michel Richard shows you how to poach an egg.

You can join us to talk about those topics, and anything else on your mind, at today’s Free Range chat. It starts here at noon, so post your questions now and we’ll try to get them all answered.

Meanwhile, just to tide you over, here’s a leftover question from a previous chat:

I have a HUGE butternut squash plant that was a volunteer growing out of my compost pile, and it has given me two HUGE squashes that are close to ripe. (Fortunately, my family loves butternut squash!) I would like to freeze some of it, as there’s no way we could eat all of even one at one meal, but I’m not sure of the best way to freeze it. Should I blanch it and freeze? Dice and (almost) roast it (a favorite prep of ours) and then freeze, ready to reheat? Or is pureeing the way to go?

The good news is, it’s easy to freeze. The better news is, you might not have to freeze it at all. Because butternut is a winter squash, with a tough skin, it can be tucked away in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) for a month or two. If your basement or attic temperature hovers between 40 and 50 degrees during the fall and winter, keep the squash there and it’ll be fine for weeks and weeks. It’s a keeper.

But if you do want to freeze it, you can leave the flesh raw or cook it. To freeze raw, just peel the squash, clean it out and cut it up into chunks. Freeze them uncovered on a baking sheet for a half-hour or so, to keep the pieces from clumping together, then double-bag and freeze (or vacuum-seal). To freeze as a cooked puree, roast the squash, peel it and puree it. At that point, some folks set the puree out to drain overnight through coffee filters or cheesecloth in a strainer, to get rid of the excess water; otherwise, the moisture could created unwanted ice crystals and also a soupy texture when it defrosts. Transfer to the freezer container of your choice and freeze. It’ll be good for months.

While you’ve got fresh squash around, why not try this recipe from Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick? If the cranberry crop isn’t quite here yet, you can use frozen. But if you store your squash right, it’ll still be good by the time cranberries appear in the stores.

Cranberry-Glazed Butternut Squash

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

I cut butternut squash into wedges. (Using small squashes makes the job easier, but large ones work as well.) The wedges are lightly coated in oil, seasoned and then roasted in the oven. They're finished with a coating of fresh cranberry glaze and a sprinkling of fresh chives. The roasting concentrates the squash flavor; the glaze provides a tart counterpoint to the sweet vegetable.

— Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

MAKE AHEAD: Roast the squash and prepare the glaze an hour or two before you're ready to serve. Let everything sit at room temperature. Then brush the squash with the glaze, using a knife to spread it if the glaze has gotten stiff. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes to warm the squash and set the glaze.

6 to 8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • About 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • About 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small butternut squash (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each) or 1 large (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), stem and top trimmed, small ones cut into quarters lengthwise and seeded, large one cut into sixths lengthwise and seeded
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • Juice and finely grated zest from 1/2 orange (2 tablespoons of juice and 1 teaspoon of zest)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh chives or flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (two tablespoons), for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Use 2 tablespoons of oil to grease the foil.

Combine the nutmeg, ginger, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

Place the squash wedges cut side down on the foil, turning them to coat all of the cut sides of flesh evenly with the oil. Arrange so the cut sides are facing up, sprinkle with the seasoning blend, then bake until tender: 30 to 40 minutes for small wedges and 50 to 60 minutes for large wedges. Transfer to a serving platter as they are done and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, make the cranberry glaze: Combine the cranberries, orange juice and zest, brown sugar and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the berries pop or can be easily mashed with a spoon. Remove from the heat, making sure all berries are mashed. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil and the vanilla extract; mix well.

If necessary, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Return the wedges to the same roasting pan, cut side up. Use all of the glaze to brush the cut sides of the squash. Bake for 5 or 6 minutes to set the glaze. Transfer the wedges to a serving platter; sprinkle chives or parsley over the wedges and serve warm.