How to Can Pumpkin At Home
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Learn how to can pumpkin at home using a pressure canner. Make your fall pumpkin and squash harvest shelf stable and ready to use all year long by following this easy recipe for home-canned pumpkin or winter squash.
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It hardly needs to be said that anything with the word pumpkin in it is a much anticipated fall favourite.
An icon of sweater season, pumpkin (and pumpkin spice) has come to symbolize comfort and warmth and wholesomeness as we cozy up in our cable knits and enjoy brisk walks through fallen leaves on a crisp autumn day.
But as much as we tend to think of pumpkin as being strictly a fall fruit -and yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable because it comes from a flowering vine- we can benefit from eating pumpkin all year long by preserving it when it’s in season.
How to Preserve Pumpkin
Canning is almost always my favourite form of preserving because it makes food shelf-stable for long periods of time and means that when I want to use that food, all I need to do is open a can and it’s ready to eat, (or at least ready to be added to whatever I’m cooking).
When it comes to pumpkin and squash, my favourite way to preserve them is actually to do nothing at all because that means less work in the fall when we’re at the end of a long harvest and canning season. Both pumpkins and squashes store well for especially long periods of time when kept in cold storage so they really don’t require any special treatment in order to preserve them.
But eventually after a few months they may begin to go soft and start to rot, especially if they’re keep in an area that’s room temperature or warmer. So if you find yourself with an abundance of any type of winter squash (this includes pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash and the many other varieties out there), you might want to preserve some by canning them in case you don’t get around to using them all before they start to go bad.
Another reason why you might want to can pumpkin is for convenience. Sure, it’s more work up front to prepare and process it all, but that means your work is done when it comes time to actually use it in a dish.
All you need to do is crack open a jar, strain out the liquid and toss your cubed pumpkin into a stir-fry, a pot pie, a pasta dish or simply enjoyed with a little butter as a side dish. Or you can purée it of course and turn it into a drool-worthy pumpkin pie. Either way, canning pumpkin means it’s ready to go when you are and frees you from worrying about your fresh pumpkins going bad before you get around to eating them all.
The Two Unbreakable Rules of Canning Pumpkin At Home
A couple caveats when it comes to home-canned pumpkin is that a) you must, I repeat YOU MUST use a pressure canner, and b) you cannot, I repeat YOU CANNOT can pumpkin purée.
The only safe way to can pumpkin or squash at home is in a pressure canner in cubed form.
You can’t use a water bath canner for pumpkin and squash because they are low acid vegetables that can breed deadly botulism spores if they’re not processed at high enough temperatures that only a pressure canner can reach.
And you can’t can pumpkin purée at home because it’s too thick for a home pressure canner to be able to kill all potentially harmful bacteria. You can freeze pumpkin purée, of course. But when it comes to canning you must can it in cubed form and then purée before using if you want to use it to make pumpkin pie or blend it into a soup or something.
Alright, so now that we’re clear on the two unbreakable rules of canning pumpkin at home, here’s how to do it…
Preparing Pumpkins for Canning
Once you’ve got your pumpkin(s), you’re ready to start prepping them for processing. This is the most tedious part of the whole process as you need to slice, peel and gut your pumpkins before cutting them up into cubes.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to cut each pumpkin in half first and scoop out all the guts. (Save the seeds for eating later!) Next, cut each half into slices approximately one-inch thick. I cut each half of a 5-pound pie pumpkin into 8 slices, giving me 16 slices total. If your pumpkin is smaller you might opt to cut each half into 4 or 6 slices. Use your discretion.
Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel the hard skin off each slice. I find it much easier to slice and then peel, rather than peel first, as I can get all of the skin off without leaving spots behind that were hard to get at with the peeler.
If you’re still having trouble using a vegetable peeler though you can use a kitchen knife to slice off skins.
Once your pumpkins are sliced, chop the slices into one-inch cubes. When you’ve finished cutting up all the pumpkin, put it aside and prepare your jars and canner.
Wash your jars!
First thing’s first, wash your jars and bands with hot, soapy water. And as per always, ONLY USE NEW LIDS WHEN CANNING! Sorry for yelling;)
Fill jars with hot tap water to keep them warm (or keep them hot in the dishwasher if using). They don’t need to be sterilized in the canner because the high temperatures achieved when pressure canning are enough to kill all bacteria.
Onto the canner…
The best thing about pressure canning is that you don’t need much water. It takes a lot of water to can in a water bath canner, but just 2-3 inches of water for pressure canning. Check with your owner’s manual for instructions on exactly how much water to add for your make and model.
Go ahead and put your water in now but leave the heat off. Make sure your canning rack is sitting on the bottom of your canner so your jars don’t touch the bottom directly.
Back to the pumpkin…
Transfer pumpkin cubes to a large, stainless steel pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.
Get hot jars ready for packing on a towel on the counter. (Never put hot jars on a cool countertop as it can crack the jar).
Use a slotted spoon to transfer pumpkin from the pot to the jars. I love my canning funnel too, and it works really well for canning pumpkin so the cubes all make it into the jar.
Fill jars up, leaving a generous one-inch headspace. Pour the boiling water from your pot over top of pumpkin cubes and leave one inch of headspace.
Use the end of a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula (or this handy bubble remover tool that I really want for Christmas… hint to family members reading this;) and slide it around the jar to release any trapped air bubbles.
I always used to recommend using a knife or a spoon handle or something but I’ve recently read that now you’re not supposed to use anything metallic. Or maybe I’m just late to the party?
I’ve never had a problem using a clean knife or spoon handle to release trapped air bubbles, so if it’s all you’ve got I wouldn’t worry too much.
Anyway, release air bubbles and then adjust head space as needed.
Wipe rims, put new lids on jars and screw bands down. Then pop ‘em in the canner. You might want these. (I won’t can without them).
Process pint jars in pressure canner for 55 minutes or quart jars for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure (15 pounds if you’re higher than 1,000 feet above sea level).
How to Pressure Can Pumpkin
For detailed instructions, tips and safety precautions on pressure canning, check out this post. If you’re already familiar and comfortable with pressure canning but want a quick and dirty refresher, read the following…
1. Place and lock lid onto pressure canner and set temperature to high. Do not put the weighted gauge on the lid just yet.
2. First allow your pressure canner to get hot enough and build up enough pressure that steam starts to stream out of the spout steadily. Set your timer for 10 minutes and let the steam vent.
3. Then place the gauge on top and wait until it starts rattling constantly. Place gauge on at 10 pounds of pressure if you’re less than 1,000 feet above sea level or place it on at 15 pounds of pressure if you’re more than 1,000 feet above sea level.
4. Once the gauge is rattling constantly, start your timer. For pint jars, set timer to 55 minutes. For quart jars, set timer to 90 minutes. Reduce temperature to around medium or just under, until weighted gauge only rattles between 1 and 4 times per minute. Keep canner operating here for the duration of processing time, adjusting heat if necessary to keep gauge rattling 1 to 4 times per minute.
5. Once time is up, turn heat off and allow canner to cool completely before removing gauge. Wait until it has completely stopped rattling and then wait another couple minutes. Use an oven mitt to remove gauge and watch for steam. Remove lid away from you so you don’t burn your face with hot steam!
6. Let jars sit in the canner with the lid off for another 10 minutes. Then remove and let cool completely on the counter before storing.
There you have it! Home-canned pumpkin that’s safe and healthy and homemade (maybe even homegrown??) with no added preservatives or questionable ingredients lurking in those jars. Food you can feel good about serving to your family and that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice, whether for a weeknight meal or a holiday dinner.
Use your canned pumpkin purée in:
- Soups & stews
- Stir fries
- Pasta dishes
- Sweet & Savoury pies
- Baked casseroles & desserts
- As an addition to oatmeal
And I’m sure there are many other creative recipe ideas out there. Do you know any? How else do/would you use home-canned pumpkin? As always, let me know down below 🙂
Canning tools I use and love:
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