Butternut soup is a creamy vegetable soup made from the butternut squash. Called the butternut pumpkin in Australia and New Zealand, the butternut squash is a sweet, fleshy fruit that develops a rich orange hue as it ripens. Butternut soup contains the basic ingredients of finely pureed butternut squash, onion, meat or vegetable stock, and a spice such as cinnamon or curry. Cooks prefer to amend this basic recipe with a variety of ingredients that give the soup its own unique flavor and consistency. Such amendments might include brown sugar, vanilla and crushed apples for a sweeter taste, or leeks and potatoes for a thicker, heartier flavor.
For butternut soup, the hard rind and inner seeds are discarded, although the seeds are edible and frequently roasted and salted as a tasty treat. The most common technique in preparing the squash for soup is roasting. The squash is sliced into halves, its seeds removed, the halves are placed cut side down on a metal baking sheet and are roasted for 30 minutes to one hour. Baking softens the rind and the pulp. Cooks simply and deftly scoop the meaty pulp and discard the rind.
A food processor or blender purees the roasted pulp into a smooth cream. For most butternut soup recipes, sauteed onions are added to the processor or blender and pureed smooth. Creative cooks enjoy the very versatile nature of butternut soup, enhancing the recipe with cooked carrots, potatoes, chopped apples and other harvest-type fruits and vegetables. Depending on the desired flavor, a cook may add either stock, broth, dairy cream or apple juice to the puree. The ingredients are always blended into a velvety cream and cooked for 10 to 15 minutes.
Butternut soup lends itself to so many varieties that some regions are renowned for their special recipes. Some chefs will only use fresh butternut for the soup, while other cooks prefer the quick and convenient pre-cooked, frozen squash. Cooks add spices such as cinnamon, curry, molasses, sage and ginger to enhance the meaty flavors of the soup and give the recipe its own distinctive style.
The butternut squash, or Cucurbita moschata, is most likely native to Central or South America. Varieties of the versatile squash include the Long Island cheese pumpkin, the Calabaza pumpkin and the neck pumpkin, an early variety of the smooth and sweet butternut. Butternuts tolerate hot, humid summers and resist many insects and diseases, making them a favorite crop in the vegetable garden.