How to Can Cubed Pumpkin

the neck pumpkin

About a month ago, I crushed the hopes and dreams of many a preserver, when I wrote about the reasons why pumpkin butter can’t be safely canned at home. In fact, the USDA says that because of its density, any pureed pumpkin product should not be canned. You can’t even pressure can the puree (don’t ask me how the commercial guys do it, because I’m not privy to their techniques. I do assume that there’s a great deal more heat and pressure involved than can be generated in a home kitchen).

peeling pumpkin

What I didn’t get into in that post is the one way that pumpkin can safely be canned, mostly because I wanted to try it out first before I wrote about it. Yes, you heard me right. Pumpkin is safe for canning if you cut it into one-inch cubes, pack it in water and pressure can the heck out of it.

chopping pumpkin

A couple of weekends ago, I walked the neck pumpkin that has been sitting in my living room since Labor Day Weekend into the kitchen and proceeded to peel, slice and cube. It took me the better part of an hour to break that sucker down (it weighted at least ten pounds).

cubed pumpkin

Following the directions in So Easy to Preserve, I simmered my one-inch cubes in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, filled my jars with the softened pumpkin and topped them off with the cooking liquid, taking care to leave the necessary one-inch of headspace on all the jars (I got nine pints from that pumpkin, with a bit leftover for eating mashed with butter and cinnamon).

simmering the pumpkin

The jars of pumpkin took a 55 minute trip through the pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure (note: Thanks to my ancient stove with it’s five heat settings, I have a very hard time keeping my pressure canner at exactly the correct pressure and so always overshoot it a little bit. I was able to get it rest on 13 pounds for the duration of the canning and was plenty happy to be able to maintain a pressure so close to the desired pressure).

measuring headspace

When the time was up, I turned off the heat and let the canner rest overnight so that the pressure could come down gently and naturally. The next morning, I had nine perfectly sealed pints of tender neck pumpkin. I’ve yet to open a jar, but I’m sure I’ll find a few good ways to use these guys up.

However, I must confess that I don’t think that this technique is going on my regular roster of yearly canning activities. I say this because pumpkin (and most other hard skinned, winter squash) are naturally designed for storage. They can keep for months just has they are and don’t need the investment of energy and canning resources to be preserved for the winter. As I mentioned up above, I’ve had this pumpkin for more than two months. And until I used my trusty vegetable peeler to strip its skin away, it was in perfect, healthy shape and I believe that I could have left it there for at least another month or two before it was necessary to cook it.

That is not to say that I don’t see the virtue in having squash that is ready to use (because have no doubt, after 55 minutes in a pressure canner, this squash is cooked), I’m just not sure that it’s the best use of canning time for me. However, if this is something you regularly do, I’d love to hear the ways in which you use your pressure canned pumpkin cubes.

I have not written out the specific instructions for doing this at home (it’s late and I’m tired). However, the National Center for Home Food Preservation has a handy one-pager that details everything you need to know. Find it here.

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49 Responses to How to Can Cubed Pumpkin

  1. 1

    I must admit, I was never actually phased by the idea of botulism in my canned pumpkin, I was just phased by the idea of all that work when you can buy cans of it so easily. It’s not like jam (in my mind) where the results are just delectable, and so unbelievably worth it. And I’m really usually the first person to jump on the ‘if there’s a long way that means I can do it from scratch then I’ll do it’ bandwagon… just, not with pumpkin.
    That said, I am very impressed at the amount of work you put into this, and your pictures are gorgeous, and, we have the same knives :D.

  2. 2
    Emily Rae says:

    In the first photo: What is the metal bulbous thing to the right of the pumpkin — I am fascinated by it. Lamp? Heirloom?

    What sort of freezer storage space do you have? I’ve frozen some demi-cooked pumpkin and squash for adding to things.

    • 2.1
      marisa says:

      It is both a lamp and an heirloom. My husband hates it, but why buy a new lamp when it does a perfectly good job.

  3. 3
    Cynthia says:

    Here’s how I can pumpkin – as a pickle. This is a really tasty recipe….check it out:

    http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/2010/10/sweet-pumpkin-pickles-and-jardiniere.html

  4. 4

    Pumpkin puree freezes well, so that’s usually what I do with mine. The frozen puree is convenient for soups, pies, pumpkin bread, etc.

  5. 5
    Mary says:

    This was my first year using a real pumpkin and I had extra after the pie I made so I just froze it. Got some of it out a while ago and it worked great in the bread I made. I haven’t started canning though, and it would be nice in the Fall to be able to can squash not just for winter (since it lasts a few months) but into and through the summer until the next squash harvest. That is why I would can it.

    Nice post.

  6. 6
    karinajean says:

    oh, amazing. after making a batch of surprise freezer pumpkin butter, I’ve thought the pumpkin rules were so (dork alert!) interesting! it’s neat that there’s a safe way to do it. however, I am also awesome at saving pumpkins for ages as decoration and then using them as food, so it’s not something I can see myself doing.

  7. 7
    Kerry says:

    I have about 120 lbs of winter squash from my garden, and they keep just fine in my unheated, unattached garage all winter long (when it gets below 15 F I bring them inside so that they don’t freeze). Honestly, we enjoy our garden squashes until April. I have never had one go bad. So unless you *really* feel the urge to spend hours in the kitchen, I would recommend just storing the squashes.

  8. 8
    LisaAnn says:

    Thank you for this great tutorial! In the deep south here we cannot keep winter squash for months so it is perfect for us 🙂 I don’t freeze storage things because of our frequent and sometimes prolonged power outages. I had never heard of the long neck pumpkin before- would you be willing to swap some seeds? I would love to grow them! Also, http://www.heirloomseedswap.com would be a great site to post them on too 🙂

  9. 9
    LM says:

    Your photo’s in this posting are especially beautiful. The one of the peeled pumpkin looks like an art peice to me.

  10. 10
    Mike says:

    Hah! You answered the question right as it entered my mind! “don’t ask me how the commercial guys do it, because I’m not privy to their techniques”

  11. 11
    Gardenmom29 says:

    Awesome…I will probably do this at some point. I have several pumpkins waiting to be used. I want to puree some pumpkin and freeze it for soup and pumpkin pie next week, so I guess one of my blue Jarrahdales will get the axe sometime soon.

  12. 12

    This is all so very interesting (not joking), but I can’t quite get over the shape of your pumpkin and I’m surprised I’m the first to comment on it. It made me burst out laughing. I guess I never quite graduated from junior high.

  13. 13
    Kristi says:

    An old chemistry professor of mine was an eccentric food scavenger – he ate food out of garbage cans, grabbed half-drunk bottles of coke out of the trash, etc. I have a lot of great stories from him, but the one that pertains here ist one of the only times he became ill from his scavenging. He rescued a chunk of pumpkin with black rot spots on it after Halloween and cut the rotty parts off and boiled it (he used this technique with other foods with great success, he claims). He became violently ill after eating it and researched why this was the case since he had cooked it so well. I guess pumpkins grow a bacteria that have some sort of toxin that is not killed by (ordinary amounts) of heat. So don’t mess with pumpkin!

  14. 14
    Justin says:

    After my rather lengthy comment on your last pumpkin post, I actually cracked-open the two jars I mentioned that I had from last year’s pumpkin canning, so I can comment on how well it keeps.

    First of all, I noticed that the pumpkin does age over time in the jar–meaning it gets darker and darker in color. By the time I opened it a year later, it was nearly as dark as a cooked pie. The taste was kind of bitter and unpleasant. I wasn’t impressed. In fact, I made butter out of it and had to add apples to brighten the flavor.

    I assume that had I tried it earlier, it might have tasted much much better, as they were bright orange shortly after canning. I’m also guessing that perhaps there were some minerals in my tap water (used as the canning liquid) that reacted over time with the pumpkin and perhaps the outside light to cause the discoloration and flavor degradation (iron perhaps??).

    That said, if you have the spare freezer space (I did not at the time), the freezer is the way to go. I bake, puree/mash, and store in 15oz portions (exactly one “can” worth for recipes). As Marisa pointed out, canning may be a good “ready to mash” convenience food, but IMHO, it just doesn’t seem to store well over time. Plus, the time spent peeling and chopping doesn’t really pay off when you can just as easily scrape cooked flesh out of a baked squash or let your food mill separate the skin for you.

    This does have me wondering, however, how it’d fare in a very light syrup or maybe even pickled in french fry sized sticks instead of 1-inch cubes. 🙂

    Marisa, please do post when you crack open a jar. I’m curious how your experience compares to mine and whether Butternut might be a better candidate than pumpkin (having more sugar in it to start with).

  15. 15
    KIm says:

    I usually cut the long neck pumpkins in three spaces for easy removal of the skin. It is a workout!!I chop it up and boil it in salt water until soft. I let it sit and then drain the water out.I put in my food processer and puree it. I then drain the extra water out. I can it in hot water bath for 2 hours. I’ve been doing this for years. I just started to freeze since last year. It is faster and taste the same. There is nothing more better than fresh pumpkin(verses) pies and whoopie pies. The long necks do last a long time. You can store them for quite awhile. Also, this time of year they are reduced at the stores and farmers market. They are trying to get rid of them before the Christmas season starts.

  16. 16
    Kate says:

    Is there any conventional wisdom about canning pumpkin chutney, which is cut into 1/2″ cubes and cooked in vinegar (with sugar, chili peppers, and sweet onion) for an hour? I have found one recipe (Nigella Lawson) that has the cook put it into sterilized jars and says they will keep for 3 months (no water bath) and another that has them in a water bath for 30 minutes and says they will keep for longer.

    Nigella’s chutney is absolutely amazing (especially when dolloped onto melba toast with a slap of room-temperature St. Andre cheese — just FYI!) but I don’t see myself eating 3 pints of it in the next three months. I’d love to be able to can it and give some as holiday hostess gifts, but I also don’t feel like killing my family in the process.

    Thoughts?

  17. 17

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had an overabundance of winter squash from my CSA & not enough freezer space to save it all. I though I would be reduced to watching my delectable “decorations” soften & get thrown away! I can’t wait to try this.

  18. 18

    […] – With apologies to my favorite canning blog: I’d forgotten that decorative (motherfucking) gourd season could be quite so…phallic. […]

  19. 19

    So, I’m looking for a recipe for Pumpkin + Spice Jam. Any ideas?

  20. 20
    Marisa says:

    Stephanie, I don’t think I have exactly what you’re after. I will be posting an apple/pumpkin butter recipe tomorrow though, so stay tuned for that.

  21. 21
    Margaret B. Higgins says:

    I’m still trying to find a way to pressure can butternut squash soup! I understand that I can’t can it in purée form- but what about pre-purée? I have read that you can prepare the one inch winter squash cubes in water and then can them in boiling broth. Couldn’t I infuse the broth with cinnamon and clove when cooking? Then I could pour it into the jars with the butternut cubes and pressure can it. My aunt, who loves this soup, could heat it up, immersion blend it, and then add milk or butter to taste. What do you think? I trying to decide how many squash seedlings to plant! If I can make this soup I’ll put in dozens!

    • 21.1
      Marisa says:

      Margaret, I honestly don’t know if that will work. However, you should check out a copy of Putting Up More as, if memory serves, there is a canning-safe recipe for butternut squash soup in there.

  22. 22
    Kathy says:

    Considering I don’t always have the $ to buy canned pumpkin, and I only make pumpkin pies from scratch, this sounds perfect even though it is 55 min in the canner. I think that will save the energy costs in freezing … gonna try this in the fall with all the winter squashes I normally freeze! THANKS!!

  23. 23

    […] water for a few minutes, packed the pumpkin into jars and pressure canned them for 55 minutes. I did it as an exercise, to see how it worked and to show that it could be […]

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Valeria Camargo says:

    Here in Brazil it is common to make Pumpkin Marmalade (cook diced pumpkin until soft, mash it, cook again with sugar, cinammon and cloves until very soft and sweet, and with some transparency) and Pumpkin Preserve (dice pumpkin and cook it in light syrup of granulated sugar and water, with cinammon and cloves). Both are delicious on toast, cakes, biscuits, and cheese. It is commonly called Doce de Abobora.
    Enjoy!

    • 25.1
      Marisa says:

      Without the addition of acid, those pumpkin preserves are unsafe for boiling water bath canning.

      • Valeria Camargo says:

        It is high in sugar, which is also a preserver. Industrialized pumpkin jam and preserves contain citric acid.
        I have been making the jam at home for years, with lots of sugar and it has always been perfect, due to the high sugar content.

        • Valeria Camargo says:

          But I suppose that adding lemon juice to the marmelade will ensure the acidity. Here in Brazil we can Doce de Leite (sweet milk paste), Ambrosia, and other milk based sweet pastes that are very very sweet and it works fine.

          • Marisa says:

            Unfortunately, when you look at it from a scientific basis, sugar is not a substitute for acid. Sugar is a preservative, but does nothing to inhibit the growth of botulism.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Julie Barbara says:

    I can pumpkin cubes every year, and take it out, drain it and mash it up into recipes.. I LOVE the way cookies turn out , and my fresh pumpkin pie was yummy.. 1 tip though, if you do used canned pumpkin chunks in a cookie or bread recipe, you may have to add a little extra flour.

  28. 28
    eric says:

    I just finished canning my first pumpkin. I did the 1inch cubes and pressure canner method. I processed the heck out of it at 15lbs for 90mins(just to be sure). I plan on using it to make my punkin’ pale ale(a delicious beer). I have used store bought libbys puree, in the past, for batches of the beer but can’t wait to taste the flavor difference when using fresh pumpkin.

  29. 29
    John Hulsmann says:

    Hi Eric (and all others),

    My buddy and I made a pumpkin ale this fall using Libby’s and roasted it in the oven prior to adding to the all-grain mashing. Came out good, but mostly it was there for the color it imparted to the beer…all the flavor comes from pumpkin pie spices…..anyway………………..DID YOU NOTICE the beer tasting differently after using your home canned pumpkin?

    Also, I’m in the midst of hacking up a huge hubbard gourd (has greenish blue skin with regular orange flesh)…………I’m going to can it, though when I look at the long island cheese pumpin I grew this Summer (only one that grew) and the “sugar” pumpkin I picked up….as well as the two uncarved jack-o-lantern pumpkins I have (that are starting to get a little soft)………………………..I SHOULD’VE left the hubbard a while longer as its could have easily lasted longer in my shed in a cooler….oh well, it is the firmest and healthiest of the bunch!

    QUESTION: How long do you the rest of you leave your pumpkins and other gourds whole and unmolested before doing something en route to eating them? I’m doing this canning of just the Hubbard today Jan 3rd, 2013.

    Cheers!

    • 29.1
      Lisa says:

      My husband LOVES pumpkin pie, bread, cookies, etc. In October 2012 we picked 11 cheese pumpkins (awesome for pie, pale orange, and shaped like a wheel of cheese) for $2 each from an organic farm. I washed and dried them, then stored them in a dark, unheated room in our basement. I still have two that look good, over 10 months later. We picked waaaayyyy too many pumpkins. Each one produces 12 cups of purée, so I have a LOT in my chest freezer. I’ll try canning the last two, because I like the extended shelf life vs freezing. It probably goes without saying, but I will never let him talk me into picking that many pumpkins again!

  30. 30
    Gordon says:

    Interesting. We had never heard it referred to as “long-necked pumpkin”, only as winter or butternut squash. We peel and slice it as above and then pressure-cook for 10 minutes. Then we mash it with butter and pepper. Room temperature leftovers are placed in meal-sized plastic bags with the air pressed out and frozen. We cook potatoes the same way.

  31. 31
    larry r says:

    the suggestion to just store it, makes the best sense to me, I do a lot of canning myself, between pickles and jellies and jams, tomatoes , and this year im looking into doing the chickens in a canner also, there is just so many hours in a day to do the preserving so im always on the look out on how to best preserve my produce, so yes storeing some neck pumpkins etc does work best for me, what I do is mix a solution of 10%bleach in a gallon of water and ”wash all of the pumpkind and winter squashes with that, and then as time goes anyone of them that shows any signs of going, black spots etc, I just use them up there and then, this way I can save my time to do the better things , like making an apple sauce that’s like eating a apple pie without the crust , or even to make the apples so that I can make an apple pie, we just love to have all of the produce that I was able to ”do up” during the fall over the winter, there is such pleasure when we open something up to use, we really feel like we got it for nothing, yes its a lot of work,, but that is soon forgotten when we are using the produce and fruits, also we have dried out parsley in the past,and it worked just great, so this year we are looking to do a lot more of basil and oregano, and a few others and see how that works for us

  32. 32
    Patrice says:

    I can it some times because I have like thirteen pumpkins to use up. Also of it get any cuts scrapes or bruises and/or is not kept cold and dry it will rot. Also after six months of on my counter, it starts to get grainy in side the pumpkin. Also we are not pie people, I use it in a stew you put the pumpkin over the bed of cous cous then put your stew over top. Its delish also I our it in a lot of other recipes. Jackle lanterns make excellent salt and pepper pumpkins.

    My question is can I cut it longer and can it in a broth? As the shape of the pumpkin slices are what makes the best looking stew in this dish.

  33. 33
    Samantha says:

    My dog gets a scoop of pumpkin every night. I’d do this to save $ & for convenience. I could spend one fall weekend on prep and have all she needs for the year. Since its just for the dog I’m not concerned with taste or texture so long as she’ll eat it.

  34. 34
    Leslie says:

    Thank you for the information. As indicated with freezing pumpkin it only keeps in the freezer at the most for six months. I want to have my pumpkin around longer, so I am going to attempt the canning method.

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