Play it Again: Canning Pumpkins

Originally Published November 2008

(Update: I didn't grow any of my own pumpkins this year, but I still intend to purchase some nice organic ones from my favorite produce market in the beginning of October and go through this same process with them. I was really happy with the pumpkin puree that I made last year and can't wait to have more of it this year!

It should also be noted that although I originally called this post "canning" pumpkins, I didn't actually can them in the typical sense. It was my intention to make puree and pressure can it, so that I could store the jars in my pantry. What I discovered as I researched was that it is NOT safe to can pumpkin or winter squash puree, and that it can only be done when the squash is in chunks, and still only with a pressure canner, not a boiling-water bath. My new favorite option is to still make the puree, but rather than can it I put it in canning jars and store it in the freezer instead. It is still almost as convenient as having actual canned pumpkin, but far safer!)

Phew… I think I might be done canning for the year! (Unless, of course, I decide to take advantage of borrowing a pressure canner to do up some dry beans for convenience sake, and I think I might have heard my husband mention pears this morning… oh well :)

I started out with those pumpkins on the left:

One of the smaller pumpkins went bad before I got to it, so I was left with six, good sized pie pumpkins.

In the morning, I cut each one in half, seeded it, and baked the halves (cut side down) on cookie sheets, at 350 F for about an hour. I was shocked at how much water they released, for being a smaller variety of pumpkin! I left them for several hours to cool off, and started to work on them again just after lunch.

This was an idea I got from Kimi's brilliant post on cooking pumpkins for puree. I'm not sure I would have known to do this otherwise, but it made such a huge difference! I must have spent over an hour, pureeing batches of pumpkin in my food processor, and then draining the water out.

I found the best way to drain the puree was to keep flipping the pumpkin over and over (but being careful not to bang the strainer on the bowl, because then the puree leaks out). I also rolled the pumpkin around and around in the strainer, and as more of the liquid drained out, it would sort of clump together in a tighter ball. It took a lot of effort, but I really think that it was worth it, to have puree that is thick and perfect for making breads, muffins, etc.

My original intention was to can the pumpkin using my MIL's pressure canner. Unfortunately, I didn't read ahead and discovered too late (after the pumpkin was already cooked) that you can't use puree for canning, only cubes (for safety reasons). So, at the last minute, I decided to still use my jars, go ahead and make puree, and then freeze it instead.

I actually think this was far easier in the end. No messing around with the canner, and much more convenient than still having to puree cubes when I want to use a can of pumpkin.

So there you have it- the relatively painless route to delicious, spiced pumpkin bread and pies all winter long (or have you seen Kimi's latest muffins? Mmmm…)

What do you do with pumpkins? Does anyone else like to make and preserve their own puree from fresh pumpkins?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. My neighbor has been pressure canning pureed pumpkin & squash for years (55 min pt’s-10 # pressure
    and never once had a problem. I did it once cutting it in chunks but it tasted horrible as a side dish
    with brown sugar and butter. Used it instead for bread and other baking and it was OK. We do not like
    pumpkin pie at all. Squash does not keep down our basement for more than 2 months even though it in an unheated basement on a cement floor sitting on plywood. Apparently it’s to warm.

    I think some of the info in the Blue Book is just fear mongering. I’ve talked to old ladies who have
    done it too with no problem.

    The one thing I dislike about canning in general is that there that the heat kills all the vitamins. Blue
    Book denies thus but I took several jars into a lab and they verified what I had read for hears. The
    same is true for veggies in the store. Do your own research. That is where freezing shines. When people can’t afford electricity canning will be our only option. Think ahead people.

  2. I have had bad experiences in the past with glass busting in the freezer, what do you do to keep this from happening?

    • @Shiloh, One of the keys is making sure that you don’t fill the jars too fill, because it will expand in the freezer. Instead of just a 1/2 inch or inch (like you would do when canning) there should be more like several inches. It also helps if the pumpkin puree is cooled off quite a bit before putting it in, so there’s no sudden hot/cold issue that could cause a small fracture in the jars.

  3. Thanks for the info. Very good post!

  4. I discovered that you can cook the WHOLE pumpkin and then once it’s cooked, you cut it in half, de-seed, and peel. I find this much easier. (This is how I cook all winter squash .) Also, I pureed mine with a stick blender and there was little to no extra water to strain. So it was a pretty short process.

  5. Aimee Gagnon says:

    Interesting, I always pressure can my pumpkin puree. We haven’t had any spoilage yet. I love canning my own pumpkins.

    • Hi Aimee, do you still “pressure can” your pumpkin puree? I have about 70 pir pumpkins to can or freeze and am really concerned, but dobn’t want to fill the freezer with just pumpkin. Can you tell me your process?

      Thanks very much,

      Cheryl

  6. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff on your post.

  7. We have been canning pumple…pumpkin apple butter. It is scrumptious! My husband bought a jar about 15 years ago at a steam show we were at in PA. He said you have to make some of this. So, I do. It is really easy if you want to have the end result. Yummy.
    I use 20 cups of pureed pumpkin
    9 cups of applesauce
    5- 8 cups of brown sugar or sweetener of choice
    8T. cinnamon
    3T. ginger
    1-2 t. cloves
    2 T. lemon juice
    Mix together thoroughly and let stand 8-10 hours. Then heat up slowly to prevent sticking in a heavy bottom pot. Place in jars and can for 10 minutes in a water bath. Especially yummy on homemade bread and swell on saltines.

  8. We ended up with 12 pumpkins from our garden this year. So far I have roasted 9 of them. The other three are waiting to be put in the garage to finish ripening (they are not quite all the way orange yet).
    Instead of doing the strainer/colander thing, I spread my pumpkin puree out in the bottom part of my broiler pans & baked it for 40 minutes at 275. This condensed the puree, but without having to babysit it. :)
    My middle daughter is looking forward to homemade pumpkin pies with the last ones we have ripening.

  9. V, mine is definitely pureed but I froze it instead of pressure canning it. The reason it isn’t safe to pressure can pureed pumpkin is because it is too thick and dense and may not heat sufficiently all the way through the center of the jar, which could result in bacteria growth. When the pumpkin is in cubes, the surrounding liquid in the jar can get heated more evenly and will get all the way into the center, which it just can’t do through the thick puree. So basically, if you want to make puree, you can just freeze it instead. If you want your pumpkin actually canned and able to be kept at room temperature, then keep it in cubes and pressure can it. Hope that answers your question!

  10. Looks like it is pureed in the picture above>>
    V : )

  11. Can anyone give me a detailed answer concerning as to why pureed pumpikin should not be pressure canned >> besides it being too low in acid.

    Thank you in advance
    V : )

  12. Perhaps I haven’t made it clear enough in the wording of the post, but I didn’t actually “can” my pumpkin puree. I put it in canning jars, and immediately froze it. No true canning involved at all, so there is no safety hazard. In fact, I mention in my post that you cannot can puree for safety reasons. I completely agree that it is not a good idea, and would not recommend anyone to can winter squash or pumpkin unless they are pressure canning, and doing it in cubes, not puree!

  13. I agree with the above posters that it is VERY dangerous to can pumpkin and squash puree. I would throw away all the jars of puree that you have already even. ONLY can chunks of winter squash in the future. This is prime breeding grounds for botchulism and is the #1 source of home canning deaths!

    I highly encourage you to remove this post or add a disclaimer saying that canning purees of winter squash is very dangerous!

  14. Babychaser, I didn’t know about it until I actually went to do it last year. When I looked it up, I realized that it wasn’t safe (there’s a link in my post to more info about the safety issues), and that’s why I froze my jars instead. In the end, I was actually really happy with having them frozen anyways. :)

    Cottage Comtesse, those scones sound soooo yummy. Now you’ve got me wanting to make some pumpkin puree right away, instead of waiting a few more weeks!

  15. What a neat post! I do like to can, but have never canned pumpkin. This year we have a bigger garden than normal, though, and have about 10 pumpkins that are already nice and orange. I’m thinking we’ll just use ‘em for decoration :)

  16. What a gorgeous picture! Thanks for this tip. Every year my oldest daughter (now 14) insists on making pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving – from scratch. We buy pumpkins on sale after October 31, roast and puree them. This will help us make that puree perfect! And now I also know which pumpkins to plant in our garden, specifically for the yummiest pumpkin baked goods. Thanks!

  17. I also did pumpkin this week. And I did freeze but I used ziplock bags. You can also make the pumpkin in the microwave and it only takes about 15 mins. I didn’t need to strain or drain mine. It was very easy and I was glad I did it. Anyone interested can see my website. Great job on the pumpkin.

  18. HA! The exact same thing happened to me when I went to can pumpkin. I had the jars all filled with puree then looked up the pressure canning instructions and discovered I couldn’t. http://www.halleethehomemaker.com/2009/08/great-pumpkin-mrs-b/

  19. Mmmm. Pumpkin. I make a pumpkin scone for the kids that is actually a cross between a soft scone and a soft cookie. Since I use sucanat instead of white sugar, it’s a great alternative to a traditional cookie. And better still, it tastes like “fall” every time you bite into one! Check out the recipe today at River Rock Cottage.

  20. I’ve heard that the USDA says that you aren’t supposed to home can pumpkin puree any more… something about it being too dense to get up to temperature. Have you read up on this?

  21. I love to roast them! Maybe a bit odd, since everyone is so much enjoying the ‘sweet’ side of pumpkins, but I treat them like sweet potatoes and roast chunks of them in the oven with just a little olive oil and salt…. yum!

    greetings from the netherlands!

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