Canning 101: A Couple Pumpkin Reminders

pumpkins

Scott and I spent the weekend up in Northampton, MA, visiting some Philly ex-pat friends. We played with Spaetzle the cat, enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather and saw many, many pumpkins.

Pumpkin season has indeed arrived and along with it, questions about the best ways to preserve it and other winter squash. While these orange-fleshed vegetables are designed for long-term storage just as they are, I know many of you want to have something a little bit more ready-to-use on hand than an uncooked squash. So here we go.

There are two ways to preserve cooked pumpkin. You can cook it into puree and freeze it or you can cut it into cubes and pressure can it. That’s it. There aren’t any other methods. Unfortunately, you cannot can pumpkin puree or butter because it is both low in acid and too dense for proper heat penetration (even in a pressure canner).

For those of you who are enjoying pumpkin season, stay tuned. My Friday Preserves in Action post will include a recipe for one of my favorite quick pumpkin soups.

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25 Responses to Canning 101: A Couple Pumpkin Reminders

  1. 1
    alex says:

    The weird pumpkin shortage in the stores this year has made me unreasonably excited for pumpkin season. Mmmmmmm pumpkin.

  2. 2

    My husband takes sandwiches to work, he emailed me saying ‘ You didn’t get me this time, better
    luck next time!’ A sliver of glass had come off the top of the kilner jar. I was mortified (so nearly was he)
    I check every jar as I use it.

  3. 3
    Monica says:

    I always freeze uncooked cubes of winter squash. They can later be roasted and left that way or pureed, or tossed into a stew or chili, or whatever. You can always use your frozen squash to make a small batch of pumpkin butter to keep in the refrigerator.

  4. 4
    Shannon says:

    Huh. I wonder how companies are able to safetly “can” pumpkin then?

    • 4.1
      Heather says:

      they use very very high mechanical pressure machines that do it very quickly. I was reading a blog post a while back from someone who used to work for the plant that puts out Libby’s pumpkin, and when he explained the process, I finally understood why I could never get it to work for me! :)

    • 4.2

      I wonder that too. I suspect their commercial canners are more powerful than our home pressure canners. But I do give the evil eye to any craft show vendor who offers pumpkin butter! :)

  5. 5
    Diane says:

    Oh well, I have plenty of room in my chest freezer for a pumpkin or two. I got a pretty Australian variety at the farmers market last weekend that has fine stripes of green,cream and orange. When I’m done using it for decor it is going in the pot!

  6. 6
    Jan Nellis says:

    Does cooked and dehydrated count as a way to store cooked squash? I cook mine, dehydrate it in cubes or pulverized (powder) and use it that way with great convenience.

  7. 7
    Melanie J. says:

    Thanks for this one! I’m hoping to store more food this winter and my husband has an addiction to Paula Deen’s Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, so I’d love to have fresh ingredients on hand.

  8. 8
    michele malone says:

    last year we froze loads and pickled the rind. it was my first canning project. with the addition of the vinegar does that make it safe, or should I toss what I have left?

    • 8.1
      marisa says:

      As long as you followed a reliable recipe for the pickles, you should be fine. I didn’t include pickling in this round-up because it doesn’t preserve the pumpkin in a way that allows it to be made into pies, breads and other traditional pumpkin items.

      • michele malone says:

        ok. thank you for the follow up. I was suddenly afraid of my pickles. lol we’ve really enjoyed them. I’ve been making the pumpkin I froze last year into muffins that the kids LOVE.

  9. 9
    Jared says:

    Hi Marissa. I love your blog. I’m just wanting some clarification; is it just plain pumpkin that can’t be reliably preserved? I made a pumpkin chutney last fall, and now i’m worried that i need to throw it out. I did cube it, and if i remember correctly there was lots of malt and white vinegar added, as well as sugar and spices. Does this sound like it should be ok? On a different note i have a huge array of spicy chilis from my greenhouse. do you have a recommendation for a chili sauce that doesn’t use tomatoes? I read one recipe that said to just blend it with vinegar and store in a jar. No heat processing or anything. Does this sound safe? thanks, J

    • 9.1
      marisa says:

      If you followed a recipe from a reliable source that included plenty of acid, your pumpkin chutney should be okay. I was really only talking about pumpkin in more traditional forms in that post.

      I don’t have a go-to chili sauce recipe for you. However, you could easily puree chilies with vinegar, it’s really no different than pickling. To be shelf stable, they would have to be heated and canned in a boiling water bath, though.

  10. 10
    amy says:

    can you make pumpkin butter and freeze it?

  11. 11
    Lisa says:

    There is a third way to preserve pumpkin – Dehydrate it! =) Works great! Give it shot.
    See Oaktreega’s you tube channel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDn131aCvpc

  12. 12
    Angela Watts says:

    I just saw a pumpkin butter on the shelf of a farmstand the other day….am hoping they are a big enough outfit to be doing it safely and not as small as their label and homemade look makes me think.

    Starting to worry with the pumpkin shortages the past couple years. I can’t live without pumpkin. I know I’ll end up buying a case of Libby’s just to make sure I don’t run out mid-year.

  13. 13
    Andrea says:

    Here’s a really dumb question….

    Can you only puree and freeze PIE pumpkins? Or can you use those big ol’ pumpkins for baking as well?

    I practically fought a lady for the LAST CAN at my grocery store a few months ago, and I do NOT want to deal with that again this year. A pumpkin nut roll made with butternut squash just isn’t the same. :(

  14. 14
    Pammy says:

    Last fall I cooked, pureed and canned pumpkin according to a recipe in my “Presto Cooker-Canner” recipe guide. I pressure cooked it at 10 lbs for 60 minutes and have been using it in pancakes all year. Are you saying that it is not okay to do this?

    • 14.1
      marisa says:

      USDA test kitchens have found that pumpkin puree is too dense to be safely canned in a pressure canner. The guidelines have stated this since 1989. If your Presto canner is older than that, it could be why your manual includes these instructions. It is not recommended that you pressure can pumpkin puree, only pumpkin chunks.

      • Pammy says:

        My book is ANCIENT! That is probably why…..I will do chunks this year. Thanks for the info. Love your blog :)

  15. 15

    [...] that, I pickled up a small sugar pumpkin. I know that I go on and on here about how pumpkin isn’t safe for boiling water bath canning, but this is the one [...]

  16. 16
    Patricia says:

    I have a pumpkin butter recipe that uses commercially canned pumpkin and dried fruits. Then processes in a water bath. It says it can be stored on the shelf for a month. Is this safe? I found it in a book for children to give as gifts.

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