Canned pumpkin is something that Jen and I tend to use a lot of. The past few years there has been a pretty nasty shortage – to the point where most of the grocers flat out didn’t have any canned pumpkin available. I found this to be pretty annoying because I like to make a number of recipes which require it, but with none on hand I was up the creek without the paddle. With my last post on preserving food firmly in mind, I decided I would head off any shortage and make my own canned pumpkin this year. Considering we’re wrapping up Halloween, there are tons of pumpkins to be had cheap.
First, let me say that when you can pumpkin, you’re going to be canning cubes of pumpkin, not a pumpkin puree. The reason is pumpkin puree is incredibly dense, and that makes it really hard to safely can it at home. The same goes with pumpkin butters. There are some times when I shrug and look the other way when it comes to food safety, but when there is a risk of botulism, I’d rather play it safe. It only takes one infected can to paralyze you or a family member for life. Is it really worth that risk? Listen to the FDA guidelines and just cube it. Its easy to turn into puree afterwards.
To make canned pumpkin, you don’t use the normal large size pumpkins that kids love to pick up for Halloween. Instead, you’re looking for smaller “pie pumpkins.” These guys are usually between 6″ and 8″ across. They’re also usually much cheaper than the ones you carve, since most stores expect people to use them as decorative. If you keep your eye out at farm stands, you can find a ton of them for cheap! After making my decision to pursue home canning, I narrowed down my source to two places. I wanted to pick up our Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin, as well as a bunch of pumpkins for canning.
Between Coopersburg and Quakertown, along Old Bethlehem Pike there is a small farm stand which runs on the honor system. I pass by it every single day on the way back and forth to work. Anyways, closer to Halloween they were offering Jack-o-Lantern size pumpkins for 5$ a peice, and pie pumpkins for a dollar a piece.
Along 663 near Quakertown, there is another farm stand. They were offering all-the-pumpkins-you-can-carry for a flat $12.95. It was a toss up – but ultimately I decided to stop by the tiny stand along Old Bethlehem Pike. There weren’t any “all you can carry” rules, just cheap per-pumpkin prices. So, I picked up the larger Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin for $5, and 7 small pie pumpkins for $1 a piece. Total cost? 12 dollars.
For jars, I stopped by walmart, who now apparently offers their own brand of canning jars. I picked up a 12-pack of quart jars for a whopping $6. Considering I’ll be able to reuse these until they break, that’s a heck of a deal. Total cost for everything? $13.
FYI, you will need a pressure canner for this, and you will also need a Canning Utensil Set.
This recipe is based on 7 pie pumpkins, so I’m not going to include much in the way of nutritional info. Sorry!
Home Canned Pumpkin
Canning takes up a fair bit of room in your kitchen, there’s no way around it. So try to mentally lay out where you’re going to have everything going before hopping in to this. The little preparation you do will pay off huge dividends. This recipe should be enough to fill 12 quart size jars, plus leave some leftovers for immediate use/freezing. Again, you must can cubes of pumpkin, and not pumpkin puree when making canned pumpkin.
What you need:
- Pressure canner (16qt minimum, with 10PSI weight)
- 12 quart canning jars, lids, and rings
- A Canning Utensil Set
- 7 pie pumpkins
- two large stock pots
- a fair bit of cooking space on your stove
- Cut pumpkins in half, and remove innards. Try to get them fairly clean. You can save the seeds for eating, or for planting next year.
- Cut the pumpkin halves into 1 inch wide slices, and then cut those slices into 1 inch square chunks. You don’t have to be super accurate, just eyeball it.
- Cut the rind off of your pumpkin chunks, and place them in a your first large stock pot. Bring them to a boil for approximately 1 minute, and then remove from heat.
- In your second large stockpot, place either a canning screen/false bottom, or an old wash cloth across the bottom. Next place as many quart jars, as you can fit right side up along with their lids. Fill the whole thing with water until the jars are completely submerged. Bring the water to a simmer, and simmer the jars and lids for at least 10 minutes – don’t turn off the heat until you have a full load for the pressure canner.
- Use your jar lifter (usually part of a set of canning utensils) and pull one of the hot jars out of the simmering water. Dump out the water.
- Using the canning funnel, fill the jar about 3/4 of the way with pumpkin chunks, loosely packed. Don’t try and fit too much in. Ladle in enough of the water the pumpkins were boiled with to leave about 1″ of head-space at the top of the jar.
- Wipe off the rim of the jar with a paper towel.
- Pull one of the lids out of the simmering water with the magnetic wand (again, these are usually part of the set of canning utensils) and place it on top of the jar. Take a lid ring (your jars most likely came with them) and use it to fasten on the lid. Just do it finger tight.
- You can place a new jar in the simmering water, just be careful, it may break if its too cold. A lot of people recommend not doing this, but I’ve never had any issues. Just make sure you keep an eye on which jar has been cooked the least.
- Place the false bottom in your pressure canner, and set the quart jar inside.
- Repeat steps 5-9 until you’ve either run out of pumpkin, or run out of space in the canner.
- Add enough water to the pressure canner so that there is approximately 3″ around each of the jars.
- Double check the gasket on the pressure canner’s lid for any nicks, scratches, or tears. Also double check that the valve doesn’t have any blockages, and that the safety release looks like its in good condition.
- Next, seal up the pressure canner without the pressure regulator/weight. Bring it to a boil – you’ll know when you start seeing steam coming out of the stem where the weight would sit.
- Put the weight on the stem, and process for 1 hour, 5 minutes. Its ok to over process a tiny bit, but do not under process.
- Remove the pressure canner from heat, and wait until it has completely cooled and depressurized (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
- Remove the jars of canned pumpkin. With proper storage, they should keep for up to one year.
- You can take any remaining pumpkin and puree it, place it in freezer bags, and freeze it.
- For steps 8-12, follow your manufacturers instructions! I only know how my pressure canners have worked, and yours may be different. It may use a gauge, it may not have a gasket – there a bunch of possibilities. Follow the manual, the steps I gave are for mine.
- If you notice any sort of strange smell when you open a jar of canned pumpkin, or strange milky cloudiness, throw it out. Its not worth the risk to try eating it anyway.
- This recipe makes a LOT – its meant to last all year. If you have a smaller amount of pumpkin you can easily fill less. You can also use pint size jars, just lower the processing time to 55 minutes.
If you have any questions, or comments, feel free to leave a comment below! Happy canning!