Pumpkins offer far more than a door stop at Halloween. They are delicious in pies, breads, and other culinary treats. However if you are considering preserving pumpkins, please consider the following suggestions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Canning pumpkin butter or mashed or pureed pumpkin is NOT recommended for preserving pumpkins.
Home canning is not recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash. The only directions for canning pumpkin and winter squash are for cubed flesh. In fact, the directions for preparing the product include the statement, “Caution: Do not mash or puree.”
Canning Cubed Pumpkin
Only pressure canning methods are recommended for canning cubed pumpkin. There are no properly researched directions to recommend for canning mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash, or pumpkin butter. To be safe, all low acid foods, including pumpkin, must be canned using tested pressure canning processes. Older methods, such as boiling water canning for vegetables, oven canning and open-kettle canning, have been discredited and can be hazardous (USDA Complete Guide to Canning, 2009).
An average of 16 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 10 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints – an average of 2¼ pounds per quart. Pumpkins and squash should have a hard rind and stringless, mature pulp of ideal quality for cooking fresh. Small size pumpkins (sugar or pie varieties) make better products. Wash; remove seeds, cut into 1-inch-wide slices, and peel. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes. Boil 2 minutes in water. Caution: Do not mash or puree. Fill jars with cubes and cover cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Freezing is the easiest way to preserve pumpkin, and it yields the best quality product. Select full-colored mature pumpkin with fine texture (not stringy or dry). Wash, cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker, or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally (So Easy to Preserve, 2006). Pack into rigid containers leaving headspace, and freeze.
Canning pumpkin butter is not recommended. Pumpkin is a low acid vegetable and cannot be safely canned in the boiling water bath process. It does not contain enough sugar or acid to be treated safely without concerns for botulism. The USDA currently does not have any tested recipes to recommend for safely canning pumpkin preserves (jams, jellies, conserves, or pumpkin butter) and storing them at room temperature. We have no properly researched procedures to recommend for home canning of pumpkin butters or pickled pumpkin products such as salsas, chutneys and relishes; recipes you try should be served immediately or stored under refrigeration at all times. These pumpkin products must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and treated the same as fresh pumpkin. Use excellent sanitation in handling the fresh or preserved pumpkin. Do not let cut pumpkin sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours during preparation prior to preserving.
Pumpkin is a low acid vegetable and requires special attention to preparation and processing. Enjoy the taste and decorating with pumpkins, but think safety when preserving pumpkins.
For more information on research based food preservation information, you may visit nchfp.uga.edu or contact Linda Hyder, UT Extension, 453-3695 or [email protected]