Canning pumpkins is a new venture for me. We had plenty to work with, as I mentioned in “50 Ways…part 1“. We kind of go overboard with some of the holidays. That’s one of the things I love about Grumpy; he doesn’t hesitate to go overboard when it comes to holidays for the kids. This is a photo of the early preparations. Grumpy made those tombstones for me out of plywood and scrap lumber. They’ve been holding up about 5 years now. There is a lot of bloody looking stuff that gets added as the day goes on, and light up creatures in the trees and upper windows, “bats” flying in the sky (a light effect), fog machine, scary noises and (my favorite) we actually have a real creepy old burial ground across the street! Halloween central- woohoo! I’m not sure if it’s the burial ground or not, but we get slaughtered with crowds of kids here!
But back to pumpkins….. So I managed to save one perfect sugar pumpkin to can this year. These are the kind you want for pies and other baked goods. Nice strong flavor, almost sweet and not grainy. Pumpkin can only be safely canned in a pressure canner, and it must be in chunks. Once you puree it the density is too great for canning, and you run the risk of not killing all the anaerobic bacteria (and you can get botulism!!! ). Start by putting a kettle of water on to boil (or two); then start sectioning your pumpkin with a very sturdy knife. Clean it out thoroughly, and scrape the stringy part out of the inside. It’s easier to peel if it’s in strips like this photo. (Okay- you caught me; that is a photo of a Jack O’Lantern type pumpkin. The same principal applies. I just didn’t get a photo of my sugar pumpkin in this state). After it’s peeled, chop it into roughly 1 1/2- 2 inch pieces.
Next, put your pumpkin into a large stainless steel pot. I usually use an 8 qt dutch oven. This is not that one, and it’s not even stainless steel. That pan was busy and I was lazy. Carry on. Now cover the chunks with the boiling water, heat on high, bring to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. While this is happening, check to make sure your jars are clean. That’s all- you do not need to sterilize them! They get totally sterile in the pressure canner.
Strain out the pumpkin and place in to jars (like the photo). Fill loosely to about 1 inch from top. When you’ve filled all the jars, pour more boiling water into them to about 1 inch from the top. The pumpkin will settle some. Use a chopstick or plastic tool to swirl out any air bubbles. Put the metal lids (not rings) into HOT water to soak for a few minutes.
Prepare the canner by pouring more hot/boiling water inside (I like to put about 4 inches in because I’m paranoid about it running dry). Add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to keep your jars sparkly (they get permanently cloudy if you forget).
Now back to the lids: Wipe the rims of the jars first with a damp towel (cloth or paper). At this point I like to wipe the rims with either a paper towel dampened with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. It doesn’t get into the jar (I said “damp”) and helps to ensure a good seal. Put those lids on, tighten the rings to almost tight (called “finger tight”, not “professional wrestler tight”). Place in canner and turn the heat waaaay up. When the hissing starts to get noticable, put the weight on and when it starts jiggling, set the timer for 90 minutes (quarts) or 75 minutes for pints. I chose quarts as I believe I’ll get no more than a can of pumpkin would have after draining off the water. When the time is up, turn off the heat and leave it alone to cool. You can cool it in the canner overnight if you have to. Do not remove weight or lid if there is any pressure remaining and until they have cooled down enough to minimize burns. If they are warm (or not too hot) after you remove the weight and lid, place them on a towel to finish cooling. Wipe them down, carefully remove the rings and check the seal. If you ever have a failed seal, even if it’s been cooling overnight, it’s still safe. Just put it into the refrigerator and either use it or reprocess it within a week or so. I got 4 quarts of cubes from one good-sized pumpkin. If you look closely in the photo, you can just see a bit of a jar full of beans behind the pumpkin. Since I still had some room in the canner, I popped some dried beans into pint jars to can. I hate running a half empty canner- it just seems like a wasted opportunity. Put the dry beans in until jar is 1/3 full, then top with boiling water to 1 inch from top. Finish the sealing in the usual manner. 90 minutes later you have perfect canned beans!