Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Butter Can’t Be Canned

pumpkins

This time of year, a canner’s fancy turns to pumpkins. Tis the season for all things round, orange and squashy, after all. However, as you start searching for recipes for home canned pumpkin butter from reputable sources, you’re going to find yourself disappointed. You see, both the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation are going to tell you the same thing. Don’t do it.

I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there saying to yourself, “but I’ve been making and water bath canning pumpkin butter for years!” And it’s true, many years ago, there were USDA-approved recipes for pumpkin butter. Unfortunately, the rules of canning are not a static canon and so, in 1989 the USDA changed their recommendations and the NCHFP followed suit. No home canning for pumpkin butter, not even in a pressure canner.

The reasons why homemade pumpkin butter isn’t recommended are several. When cooked down into a butter, pumpkin flesh becomes quite dense, making it difficult for the heat produced in a canner to penetrate fully through the contents of the jar. This means that even in a pressure canner, the interior of the jar may not reach the 240 degrees needed to kill those pesky botulism spores.

Additionally, pumpkin and all other winter squash are a low-acid vegetables, meaning that without careful treatment, they could potentially be a friendly environment in which botulism spores might grow into their toxic adult state. In tests, it’s been found that the pH of pumpkin has a fairly wide range, meaning that it’s not possible to offer a basic acidification ratio as there is for other borderline and low acid foods.

The good news is that pumpkin butter can be frozen and also keeps quite well in the fridge, so it doesn’t have to be entirely off the menu. I’ve also been pondering whether one could make a an apple-pumpkin butter that would be high enough in acid to be safe for canning, but would contain enough pumpkin to be sufficiently autumnal. I may do a bit of playing around, to see if I can get somewhere close to the flavor I’d like to eat.

If you’re curious to read more about the safety hazards of canning pumpkin butter and other squash purees, click here to download the PDF that was the primary source for this post.

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Jars on Vacation

half gallons of pickles

Scott and I are back in Philadelphia, after more than a week out on the west coast. It was a glorious trip, full of good food, delightful day trips, lots of rest and plenty of time with my parents. While I work on unpacking, doing laundry and sorting through the mail, here are a few pictures to keep you busy.

happy girl kitchen co. pickles

At the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market in San Francisco.

happy girl kitchen co. jams

Canned smoked salmon at the Tillamook creamery in Tillamook, OR.

canned smoked salmon

Jar-shaped canisters!

jar-shaped canisters

Three pictures of the display in the window of the Pearl District Anthropologie in Portland. It made me cringe a little, to see perfectly good jars spoiled in this way. But I couldn’t help be charmed by them nonetheless.

painted jars at Anthropologie
painted jars at Anthropologie
painted jars at Anthropologie

Another shop in downtown Portland that was using jars in their window display. Happily, these weren’t painted so they can be used again.

window display of jars

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Vacation Confessions and a Puckery Holiday Ornament

beach

This always happens to me. I go on vacation, thinking that because I’ll have so much free time, it will be easy to write a bunch of pithy, highly useful blog posts (I’ll admit, there have been times when I imagined that I’d get ahead and write well into the future. Ha!).

woody, on his chair

But the moment I leave Philadelphia, I enter an alternate universe that consists of lots of sleep, reading trashy/entertaining books and eating more than I should. I’m already passed out by the time my regular evening writing time comes along and the days become so full of fun things like walking on the beach, standing in enormous air ship hangars and hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls (that’s what we’re going to do today).

pickle ornaments in a jar

I did want to share one thing with you guys that I found since I’ve been in Portland. It’s from Sur La Table and I’m totally delighted by. I’ll confess now, when I spotted these little pickle ornaments in a jelly jar, I may have let out a small, high-pitched squeal of excitement.

pickle ornaments in a jar, top

I grew up with a larger green glass pickle ornament that hung on our Christmas tree every year, but I’d never seen these smaller guys before. And please, the fact that they are packaged in an adorable little jar? How could I not buy them?

pickle earrings

If you’re as charmed by them as I am, make sure to get them soon. This is just the sort of thing that will sell out and then you’ll be sad that they’re all gone. And, as Scott shows above, they also make a lovely earring.

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Open Jars: A Spoonful of Jam in a Breakfast Smoothie

DSC_0087

Open Jars is a new, regular series here on Food in Jars, devoted to ways to use the preserves, pickles, chutneys and more that we all spent the summer stashing away. Occasionally, I’ll be running guests post in this space, so if you’ve got an idea, let me know!

I’m a big fan of the breakfast smoothie. I’ll often toss a little yogurt, some frozen banana, a couple of kale leaves (chard works too) and a tumble of blueberries into the blender and blitz until smooth. In the summertime, when the blueberries are fresh, I find that this concoction needs no additional sweetening. But now that fall has arrived and I’m using frozen blueberries, I’ve been reminded just how puckery this morning meal can be without a helpful touch-up of some kind.

In the past I’ve added a bit of honey, agave or maple syrup to brighten up the flavors. However, the other day during smoothie prep, my eyes landed on a jar of strawberry preserves that had been taking up space for at least six months (still perfectly fine). My husband frequently mentions how crowded our fridge is (making it impossible for him to find anything) and so I’ve been actively trying to reduce the condiment clutter. I grabbed the jar and added a generous tablespoon to the blender.

Once the whir of the blender was finished, a quick taste let me know that the flavors were good and that the jam had added a nice strawberry sweetness to the finished drink. I decanted the rest of the smoothie into one of my beloved pint and a half jars and was off to work. This will not be the last time that jam (or fruit butter) joins the smoothie ingredient list.

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Canning 101: How to Make Apple Butter and How to Use It

apples

Last Friday, a piece I wrote about making apple butter ran on Simple Bites. For those of you who’ve been reading this site for awhile, the technique won’t be unfamiliar to you. It’s essentially the same one I use for all my butters, including the blueberry butter that was so popular this summer.

With apple butter, I cook the fruit down into sauce on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Then, using a slow cooker, I cook the sauce down into butter. With this last batch, I did a bit of experimentation with my newer slow cooker (for the blueberry butter, I used an older one that has a lower cooking temperature). What I found is that the “warm” setting on my newer cooker (vintage 2003) was quite similar to the “low” setting on older cooker that dates to the early seventies. In case you were wondering.

Now, as far as apple butter goes, it can be canned without any additional sweetener. However, I typically find that a bit of cane sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup brightens the flavor. I don’t like artificial sweeteners, so I don’t use them, but they could also be used in this case if you tend towards them.

So, how to use all this apple butter that you’re cooking up in your slow cooker? Personally, I like it stirred into greek yogurt or slathered on peanut butter toast. You can also use it in place of applesauce in baked goods. For instances, it would go nicely in my Maple-Banana Bread. I also like the looks of this Apple Butter Bread. Consider subbing some apple butter for the pumpkin puree in these spiced pancakes. Use it as one of the moisture lenders in a granola recipe.

Now for your ideas! How do you like to use apple butter?

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Portland, a GrassRoutes Guide and a Guest Post

a Portland vista

Scott and I are headed to Portland for a week of vacation next week. It will be Scott’s first visit to my hometown and I can’t wait to introduce him the wonder that is Powell’s Books, take him to eat at Pok Pok and drag him up to the top of Multnomah Falls.

An Urban Eco Guide

Though I haven’t lived in Portland in nearly nine years, I work hard to get back there at least once a year to eat, shop the thrift stores and hang out with my parents. Because I still know the city fairly well, when my cousin Serena asked if I’d be willing to contribute a few write-ups to the second edition the GrassRoutes Guide to Portland, I was happy to say yes (my sister also wrote a number of the blurbs).

So, in honor of my impending trip to Portland, I offer you a guest post from Serena. We’re also giving away one copy of the Portland Guide. Leave a comment sharing a memory of your hometown by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2010 to enter.

contributor page

Portland. Pickles. Don’t the two words sound extra enticing spoken one after another? And rightly so given the number of coveted pickle jars I discovered in my many trips north to the so-called City of Stumps. Researching and writing the GrassRoutes Guide to Portland took me to tables in every corner of the city, and one of the most memorable of those was also the kitchen whose pickles I favored.

Paley’s Place is not for routine meals. The white-walled rooms, located in what was once a family residence, are neatly crosshatched with linen-clothed tables, some of them two tops for couples toasting an anniversary. The ever-changing menu always features a pile of organic and sustainable ingredients, so it was a natural fit for a guide that focuses on conscientious businesses and activities that make a positive impact on the local economy, community, and environment.

I remember that night I had had an especially casual state of mind and ordered a burger at a place where I could have supped on suckling pig three ways with ricotta gnocchi. It wasn’t a regrettable decision, and it came with these pickled vegetables, recipe below, which really complimented the savory richness of the beef. This treasured food memory from my travels has become one of those invisible souvenirs that can be recreated in any geography, provided there’s a jar in the vicinity.

When we talked about me doing a guest post I thought, “What would be better than to share this recipe with the Food in Jars community of canners?” So here it is. And next time you get the chance to visit the rosy city of Portland try Paley’s Place for yourself, and other eco-savvy spots featured in GrassRoutes Portland, including several entries by Marisa, a contributor to the guide!

The recipe from Paley’s Place is after the jump…

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