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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.