October 19, 2020

Canning pumpkin for the first time

Every year it's the same hassle. I want plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, and I can't find it. And if by some miracle I do stumble across it in the fruit section of my local grocery, reading the label is disappointing. Yes, pumpkin is a squash, but I want only pumpkin squash to be in the can. Once you bake a pumpkin pie using pumpkin puree you made using only pumpkin, you'll never want to go back to the commercial product. 

What are the options? 1) Settle for a product that could have just about anything in it, or 2) process a real pumpkin you either grew in the garden or purchased at the local orchard. This year, I chose Number 2. 

In the past, I've cut up a small pumpkin and "roasted" it in the oven. This time, the pumpkin I got was larger and I was very glad my knife was sharp. Before yesterday, I'd never canned pumpkin or used a pressure canner. It was a steep learning curve and I think I made a lot of "newbie" mistakes. Thankfully, it all worked out in the end, but there are a few things I need to remember for next time.

The first thing to do is save boiling water in a carafe to pour over the jarred pumpkin. Have that ready before anything else because there's not much room on the stove once the canner is sitting there. 

Second - Use a bucket and get all the pumpkin cut into one-inch pieces before starting the two-minutes pre-jarring. The process calls for the pumpkin chunks to be boiled and heated through BEFORE they go in the jars, and then to cover the jars with clean boiling water before putting the lids on. 

I tried to multi-task and get the pumpkin chunks boiling while still cutting up the pumpkin. Bad idea. Putting the chunks in a bucket of water that has a bit of citric acid in it to preserve the color is a good idea. Partly because my kitchen is on the small side, and partly so I can take a ten-minute break after cutting up the pumpkin.  The actual jarring is not a quick and easy process and once started, you have to keep going. 

We were a little nervous about the pressure canner. I bought a 23-quart Presto with a pressure gauge. It seemed to take forever to get to pressure, but it finally did. I was just about to turn off the stove and figure out if I'd done something wrong when the pressure lock button popped up. Things progressed quickly from there. 

One medium-sized pumpkin netted six quarts of pumpkin cubes. I don't yet know how that translates into the amount of puree for pies, breads, spreads, and cheesecakes. I suspect it's not enough. I'll probably stop by the orchard next Friday night and can another batch next weekend. 

The process yesterday seemed like a lot of work but only because I was doing it for the first time. It'll be a lot easier from here on. Real pumpkin pie is worth the effort. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

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