How To Cook & Can Pumpkin and Live To Tell the Tale


Jean SilverI know pumpkins and squash are supposed to be a gardener’s delight, but this year’s harvest has been downright ridiculous. We have pumpkins everywhere. This is really putting my imagination to a test. I’ve been reading everything that I can about pumpkin recipes and what to do with pumpkins. Of course, if my imagination runs dry, the chickens and goats love to take up the slack for me!

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Sometimes it’s fun to just toss the whole pumpkin into the goat yard and watch them examine it. They push it with their noses. They gnaw at it a little bit. They may get bored with it after they fail at trying to take a really good bite and go someplace else. Once the chickens find it though, the fun starts. They’ll peck at it until they break through the rind, then try to devour it. When the goats see what’s happening, they move back in and take over, finishing off whatever they can find.

I like pumpkins a lot of different ways. We’ll eat them as soup. We’ll eat them as pie and pudding. Pumpkin bread is our specialty. And we’ll can a lot. As of writing this, it’s still not recommended to can pumpkin puree, at least according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I really trust what they say, and usually I follow their recommendations word for word — but not about canning pumpkin. I know people say all the time that they’ve been doing something since they were born, and you have to take things like that with a grain of salt. In this case, though, I really have been doing this since I was a kid. I give it to my children and grandchildren. I eat it myself. I use it in many kinds of foods. So I feel pretty safe in saying that puréed pumpkin, if properly pressure canned, can be quite safe to eat and use.

One thing I have to emphasize, though, is that this is absolutely not a canning bath process. I can’t prove (I’m happy to say) that water bath canning could be fatal, but pumpkin isn’t an acidic fruit by any means, and non-acidic foods should be pressure-canned.

I’m always paranoid about pressure canning. I’m constantly afraid that I’ll do something wrong. If the recipe calls for 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes, I use 15 pounds of pressure for 45 minutes. It doesn’t seem to hurt the food quality, although I’m not a nutritionist. However, botulism is just not something that I want to risk.

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