Yes, that really is a pumpkin that I used for 'decoration' during October and November. The sad truth is, it is not the only one. I have always thought about learning how to can pumpkin, but it just seemed daunting. So, I never did try it. I didn't like throwing good pumpkins away, it always bothered me. So, this year, I did something about it.
I found directions on canning Pumpkin from the University of Minnesota Extension service. I followed their directions, but learned a few tricks along the way that I thought I would share.
After washing the pumpkin, cut it open with a sharp knife.
Initially, I cut the pumpkin in half.
After cutting the half again (making quarters), I tried a number of 'tools' to scoop out the seeds and stringy mess. Guess which one turned out to be the best tool to use?
The best tool was a serrated Steak Knife. I started from one corner and pulled the seed/string mixture to the center. I flipped the piece around and repeated it on the other side. After taking a couple of large scoops out, the knife cleaned up all the 'strings' and left the flesh.
The directions indicate that you should cut the pumpkin flesh into one inch strips and then peel. After cleaning the inside, I put a sharp knife in the middle of the quarter piece and cut toward the tip. I repeated this process from the middle to the other tip.
"Peel"? I had never peeled a pumpkin and thought that it might take forever. It would have too if I didn't get a bit creative. I initially started with a sharp paring knife. That took way to long and didn't leave a smooth surface. I then tried a potato peeler and it worked really well, It was relatively quick too! Look at the difference between the two above in the picture. The only suggestion I would give is for portions of the flesh that have deep indentions. Cut along the indentions and use the peeler on the edge to get all of the peel.
Next, cube the strips and drop them into boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes.
I chose to use a strainer to retrieve the pumpkin dices after boiling.
I poured the hot dices of pumpkin right into the jar from the strainer by using a funnel.
Fill the jars with the hot water that you boiled the pumpkin dices in, wipe the rim and place a sterilized lip and ring on the bottle. This pumpkin made 5 quart jars of pumpkin.
Process for your area in a Pressure Canner. As I live over 5,000 feet, I processed at 15 lbs pressure for 90 minutes.
Now, you may be asking yourself if this worth it. I believe it is. I got that pumpkin for free! A 29 oz can of pureed pumpkin (the national brand) costs $3.33. I got 4 cups of diced pumpkin in each quart. The smaller pumpkin gave me the equivalent of ~ five 29 oz cans once the dices are pureed.
I am guessing that I may get 7 quarts from the larger pumpkin that remains. (Just for a point of reference, I paid $2.00 for the larger pumpkin I have yet to process). That means that with the larger pumpkin, I will save ~$21.31. (Here is the math: 7 cans would cost $3.33 each leaving a total of $23.31. Subtracting the $2.00 I paid for the pumpkin leaves a residual amount of $21.31)
Once I got my system going, it took about 10 minutes to get the seeds/strings from the inside and about 30 minutes to peel the entire pumpkin. As I used a large stock pot, the boiling of all the pumpkin dices was under 5 min. So, it took about 45 minutes to prepare the food for the canner. After placing the jars in the canner, I set the timer for 90 minutes and went about my other pressing tasks.
I plan to blend the dices and use the puree as I would in any recipe. It could be used in bread, soups, and certainly pies.
Canning pumpkins and winter squash
By William Schafer, University of Minnesota Extension educator
Vegetables must be canned in a pressure canner for the correct time and pressure (PSI) to ensure their safety. If not canned correctly, these low acid foods may contain the deadly botulism toxin.
Vegetables may be canned without salt. Salt adds flavor but does not prevent spoilage. If you use a weighted-gauge canner and can at an altitude less than 1000 feet, you may use 10 PSI instead of 15 PSI for the canner pressure. This will improve nutrient and quality retention of the vegetables. Check with your local county extension office or Soil Conservation District for altitude information.
Cubed pumpkins and winter squash (acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, golden delicious, or hubbard)
Quantity: 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 2-1/4 pounds per quart.
Quality: 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.
Procedure: 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 cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. For making pies, drain processed jars and strain or sieve cubes.
1) Dial-gauge Pressure Canner
Pints – 55 minutes 11 PSI
Quarts – 90 minutes 11 PSI
2) Weighted-gauge Pressure Canner
Pints – 55 minutes 15 PSI
Quarts – 90 minutes 15 PSI
So, if you still have a pumpkin or two left...you ought to give this a try. It really was a worthwhile task and I will be doing it again.